Fraudster secured Covid loan by inventing turnover for non-existent business

8th May 2024

A fraudster who illegally secured a £50,000 Bounce Back Loan designed to support businesses during the Covid pandemic has been handed a suspended sentence.

Rian O’Keeffe, 28, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years, when he appeared at Southwark Crown Court. O’Keeffe, of Lisgar Terrace, Hammersmith, is also subject to a three-month curfew and must complete 30 days of rehabilitation activity.

O’Keeffe applied for the loan in July 2020, falsely stating in his application that his Trainersource business had been trading in March of that year with a turnover of £312,000.

In interviews, he admitted to Insolvency Service investigators that his statement was inaccurate, accepting he had not started a business on that date or subsequently.

Trainersource never traded and was only an idea O’Keeffe had for a business which he claimed was why he applied for the loan.

O’Keeffe also committed fraud by misusing the funds and declaring on his application that he would only use the money for the benefit of his business.

Soon after obtaining the loan, O’Keeffe made more than 150 transfers to two personal accounts between August and October 2020. He withdrew £14,000 on the day he received the loan and a further £8,000 just over a month later.

O’Keeffe confirmed to the Insolvency Service that he had misrepresented what the money was to be used for and said he spent it on general living expenses.

He was declared bankrupt in November 2021 and accepted a 12-year Bankruptcy Restrictions Undertaking (BRU) in October 2022.

The BRU prevents him from acting as a company director during that period, borrowing more than £500 without declaring his restrictions, and working in various posts in the education and health sector.

Julie Barnes, Chief Investigator at the Insolvency Service, said “Rian O’Keeffe abused the government-backed Bounce Back Loan Scheme designed to help businesses through the pandemic.

“He claimed to own a business that was never in existence, provided a totally fictitious turnover, and used the funds he fraudulently secured for his own personal use.”