The high flying and glittering career of a Meath born hospital surgeon came crashing down today (Thursday) when his lies and greed were finally exposed and he was jailed for eight years years for a massive mortgage fraud and insurance scam.
Orthopaedic surgeon Anthony McGrath and his GP wife Anne-Louise McGrath were in debt to the tune of thousands of pounds when he decided to make a phoney report to police that the house he and his family were renting on a country estate had been burgled and valuable antiques stolen.
It was all part of the Maserati driving doctor’s elaborate plan to then submit a bogus insurance claim for more than £180,000.
Luton Crown Court heard details of how McGrath reported an antique fireplace stolen in a burglary at his stately country home was actually in situ in his childhood home of Somerville, near Kentstown.
In his claim to insurers he claimed that property stolen from the cellar included expensive antiques and furniture, jewellery, silverware, artwork, Ming vases, oriental rugs and crystalware.
One item he claimed had been taken was a 19th century Rococo red marble fireplace worth £30,000.
McGrath, raised in the stately Georgian manor house of Somerville and with a taste for the finer things in life, hoped his lies would help him raise the funds he needed to renovate the couple’s new £1.1 million home they had bought in St Albans in Hertfordshire.
But as police investigated the “break-in” at the rented cottage called The Garden Bothy in the grounds of Luton Hoo, the former Bedfordshire stately home where the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had stayed during their honeymoon, they began to smell a rat.
They discovered the extent of the consultant’s massive debts and, and as they looked closer into his financial affairs, discovered he had made a series of false claims about his and his wife’s earnings in respect of three mortgage applications.
Anthony McGrath and his GP wife, 44-year-old Anne-Louise McGrath.
As a result more than a million pounds had been advance in loans.
Today (Thursday) at the end of a four month trial at Luton crown court, which is reckoned to have cost the taxpayer more than half a million pounds, Dr McGrath, 46 was found guilty of four counts of an insurance scam fraud, perverting the course of public justice, and three charges of mortgage fraud.
Jailing him at Luton Crown Court today, Judge Barbara Mensah branded him "arrogant" and told him "Your lies appear to know no bounds."
She went on: "This is a very sorry tale of a very talented Mr McGrath.
"Through your talents, you rose to be a successful orthopaedic surgeon and fell, through greed and arrogance, to where you sit today."
The judge said the fraudulent mortgage applications made by the consultant to secure three mortgages worth more than a million pounds on two properties demonstrated "breathtaking brazenness" with the forged and false documents he had produced.
The judge said "The mortgage frauds were well planned and sophisticated."
The judge went on: "Your dishonesty knows no limits because, even after you gained financial assistance, you still needed more money and that led you to make a fraudulent claim for a burglary.
"Because of your arrogance, you didn't think an insurance company or the police would question a man of your standing."
McGrath wasn't in the dock to hear the number of years he must serve behind bars. Halfway through the sentencing, he shouted at the judge "You suppressed the information. You have abused your power as a judge."
McGrath said the jury had not heard the truth and went on: "You talk to me as if I am a child. Shame on you."
He then told Judge Mensah "You are an abusive, racist and terrible person. Shame on you for suppressing the truth."
He was led downstairs to the cells while the judge completed the sentencing.
The court heard a confiscation hearing will now be heard to seize the assets of McGrath.
The £1.1 million home he bought through his fraudulent mortgage applications has been found to have structural faults, meaning it can't be sold.
The judge was told that McGrath hadn't paid a penny of his mortgage in repayments on the home.
Before sentence was passed today, the court was told that McGrath will never be able to practice again and his career is now ruined.
McGrath’s GP wife, 44 year old Anne-Louise McGrath was cleared by the jury of being involved in the three mortgage frauds with her husband and also of retaining items of jewellery her husband was claiming for and selling at auctioneers Bonhams a pair of earrings.
She had told the court that with young children to care for and an ailing mother she left much of the family’s financial affairs to her husband.
The wife said she knew nothing about the fraudulent mortgage applications made by her husband.
And she said he had assured her that the jewellery she had wanted to sell to raise funds was not part of any insurance claim he’d made.
During the trial the jury was told how in the months leading up to the fictitious burglary in April of 2015, the Irish couple with four children aged between four and 14 were desperately trying to stay financially afloat.
Between them, they could earn top salaries. She was a respected GP and he was an orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore earning around £84,000 a year.
But the family’s outgoings were huge. They had to pay £2,400 a month to rent the Garden Bothy built 1800s and once used in an episode of Inspector Morse.
Then, they had mortgage repayments of £2,400 for their new seven bedroomed detached home in leafy Clarence Road, St Albans which they couldn’t even live in because of costly refurbishment work that was being carried out.
Other loans meant their finances were in a precarious state. Worries about school fees for their children and bank cards being declined at supermarket tills were placing a heavy strain on the couple’s relationship.
Before the scam, the surgeon had been trying to raise funds by selling off antiques.
He’d even told the owner of one antique business that he was helping to fund a child refuge in Syria, saying he had already transferred £74,000, but investigations revealed no money had been sent.
Trial prosecutor Charlene Sumnall told the jury of three women and nine men at Luton crown court: "This was all a lie. Anthony McGrath was trying to raise as much money as possible in early 2015, not for the children of Syria, but to alleviate the significant financial pressure facing him and his wife."
Despite the money troubles, Anthony McGrath spent £50,000 on a Maserati, later telling the police he was "not particularly good with money."
McGrath had enjoyed a privileged upbringing in Ireland with his three brothers.
Home was a massive 200 year old Georgian stately home called Somerville House in Co Meath, bought by his late father Joseph McGrath who was also an orthopaedic surgeon.
The father had a passion for antiques and, as a young boy, McGrath developed the same passion, becoming extremely knowledgeable about arts and antiques.
He also decided to take up medicine and went to university in Dublin to study.
It was there that he met an 18 year old Anne-Louise, who was also studying medicine and who was to become his wife. The couple married in 2002 and moved to Aberdeen, where they pursued their careers.
Then, with Anne-Louise remaining at their home in Aberdeen and working as a GP, McGrath moved south to England to work in a hospital in Southampton. His wife eventually joined him with their children.
McGrath worked at a number of hospitals before he went to work at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, north west London.
Anne-Louise was a self-employed GP, but the jury was told that at the time of the fraud she was not working much because she was caring for the children and her elderly mother.
Three mortgage applications were submitted by the husband to Lloyds Bank between 2012 and 2015 supported by forged documentation in relation to his and his wife’s earnings.
A forged “employment and income reference” purportedly sent from the HR department of a hospital in Southampton where McGrath was working during 2012 had inflated his earnings by nearly £10,000.
It had been dated 20th November 2012, but in fact McGrath had left the hospital two months before.
Documents supposedly prepared by accountants contained a false “projection” that Mrs McGrath’s income for the year to March 2013 would be in the region of £95,000.
At the time, Anne-Louise was caring for their three children and an ailing mother and hardly working. She had declared her income for the same period as £0.
Sets of fake accounts showing bogus and inflated figures for the couple's earnings were also submitted to the bank as part of the applications.
The prosecution told how another letter from a finance company which had offered the wife employment as a medical officer on a day rate of £500 a day, also contained a forged signature.
One off payments to Mr McGrath that showed up in his bank statements for items including antiques that he had sold, he tried to pass off as being part of his salary .
As a result of his deceptions a mortgage for £825,000 and then a further mortgage for £135,000 was raised on their house in St Albans.
A further £85,000 buy-to-let mortgage was then obtained on a previously un-mortgaged property in Somerton Close, Belfast. This had been the home of Anne-Louise McGrath's mother.
With the £1.1 million house in Clarence Road, St Albans, McGrath thought that if he set about renovating it he could double its worth.
But their monthly financial commitments and soaring building costs meant they were struggling to find the money for the restoration which was moving at a snail's pace.
It was on the evening of 15th April 2015 when Anthony McGrath rang Bedfordshire police and reported there had been a burglary at The Garden Bothy.
He claimed a large quantity of antiques, furniture, rugs, paintings and silverware 19th century clocks had been stolen from the cellar where they were being stored ready for the move to St Albans.
He said 25 large Tupperware boxes in which he kept the cherished family heirlooms, including Ming vases, silverware and cutlery, had been taken.
The doctor said also taken from the cellar by the burglars was a 19th century Rococo fireplace worth in the region of £30,000.
Entry had been gained by a window being broken in the kitchen, but surprisingly there were no forensic clues.
When police examined the old sash window they could see a bottom left hand pane had been smashed leaving jagged glass.
It was quickly realised it would have been impossible for someone to reach through from the outside and then undo the catch higher up without leaving behind fibres and marks.
By the summer of 2015 police were beginning to suspect Mr McGrath. He was strangely reluctant for publicity about the break-in and he didn’t want the police to take his case to the TV show “Crimewatch.”
The doctor was keen that police officers and loss adjusters from the insurance company shouldn’t talk to his wife, claiming she was suffering from post natal depression, which was untrue.
He was slow in coming up with a definitive list of what had been taken and detailed description of the items.
Then, in July of 2015 following a request by the police for details and descriptions of the items, Detective Constable Dave Brecknock received photographs from him.
Luton Crown Court
They were of items that had previously been photographed before the supposed burglary. Three photos received by the detective were of a £30,000 marble fireplace Dr McGrath said had been stolen in the burglary three months earlier.
With the other photos, DC Brecknock said he could tell they were images copied from previously taken photos.
But the fireplace photos were different, he said, telling the court: “It sticks out. That is an image of the real thing, the real fireplace in situ in a building.”
The officer said that the data accompanying each of the three photos gave the date they were taken in the July and the latitude and longitude information pinpointed the location as Somerville House near Kentstown, the McGrath family home.
“These were images as far as I was concerned of the stolen fireplace, so how can my victim send me pictures of his stolen fireplace,” the officer told the jury.
The police also found out that after the “break-in” the surgeon had driven a hired van to his family's home in Ireland.
The house in Clarence House, St Alban's
When Bedfordshire Police and the The Garda went to Somerville House on 26th November 2015 they found a red 19th century Rococo fireplace that had been reported stolen in the burglary.
In fact, the antique fireplace had been bought around 2010 and installed then in the drawing room of Somerville House.
Ms Sumnall said: "We are all brought up to believe what doctors tell us, but they hid behind the veneer of their status."
She said Mr McGrath earned £84,074.40 in the year 2012 to 2013 - "a nice sum, but not enough for this family."
Anne-Louise was not consistently working, and reported earning £0 from self-employment in that period.
The prosecutor said the reason Mr McGrath embarked on this course of conduct was motivated by their desperate need for money.
She said at times the family was in dire financial straits. Their overdraft was in tens of thousands of pounds, there was no reigning in on spending and the refurbishing of Clarence Road was spiralling out of control. They continued spending on antiques, cars, school fees and alike.
"Despite their debts, he decided to buy a £50,000 Maserati - when asked about it by police, he said he was not very good with money - something of an understatement,” said the prosecutor.
On the day of the "burglary," 13 members of a conservation group called The Walled Garden Society had visited the Luton Hoo Estate to restore the walled garden, which is next to The Bothy.
The prosecutor said: "The presence of over a dozen people in the open next to The Bothy make it strikingly unlikely that a team of professional burglars would have chosen to break in," she said.
The prosecutor said: "Mr McGrath listed 95 items that he claimed had been stolen during the burglary, describing most in some detail. The total value of these items was £182,612.50."
Mr McGrath of Oakland Lane, Smallford near St Albans pleaded not guilty to fraud with his dishonest claim to Lloyd’s Banking Group Insurance that his home had been broken into and perverting the course of public justice by making a false statement about it to the police.
Mrs McGrath of Clarence Road, St Albans pleaded not guilty to three counts of fraud relating to her failure to tell the insurance company she was still in possession of a pair of sapphire earrings and a diamond and sapphire ring and causing the earrings to be sold at auction at Bonhams.
She was acquitted of all three counts.