A man with dual Irish and US citizenship was arraigned in Boston last week on federal fraud and identity-theft charges that could put him in prison for four decades after he spent six years trying and failing to convince Irish courts to let him stay in County Kildare.
Patrick Lee, 44, was extradited to the US after the Irish Supreme Court last month rejected his argument that because Irish laws also prohibit the fraud he allegedly committed in the US, he should be tried in Ireland and await prosecution there, even though the actual properties and alleged frauds were in Dorchester, South Boston and Randolph and the real-estate appraiser whose name he allegedly forged on documents works in the Boston area.
The US Attorney's office in Boston reports that in addition to a potentially lengthy prison sentence, Lee also faces up to $1 million in fines if convicted on 29 counts of wire fraud, 6 counts of unlawful monetary transactions, and 16 counts of aggravated identity theft, all related to his actions related to 80 Draper St. and 110 Norton St. in Dorchester, 650 E. 6 St. in South Boston and 50A Stacy St. in Randolph.
Federal prosecutors charge that Lee bought the two- or three-family properties in 2005 and 2006, converted them into condos, then "sold" them to straw buyers for whom he made up income and employment records so they could get mortgages that they then promptly defaulted on - after Lee had banked the bulk of the proceeds of their transactions. And, prosecutors say, he forged an appraiser's signature on documents with inflated values for the properties that were used in the mortgage applications.
Lee left the Boston area for Newtown, County Kildare in Ireland in 2007. In 2008, the Secret Service filed a sealed criminal complaint against him in Boston federal court. A grand jury indicted him in 2010, although the indictment was not released until 2011, at which point prosecutors began extradition proceedings against him in Ireland. Lee fought back by claiming he was immune from extradition because he had committed some of the alleged offenses while in Ireland and Irish law forbids extradition for crimes committed on Irish soil.
As one court rejected his argument, he appealed, until finally the Irish Supreme Court got the case earlier this year.
In a ruling handed down last month, Chief Justice Frank Clarke discussed the relevant sections of Irish and EU law, but ultimately got to a metaphor that would be familiar to any American who has ever pondered where somebody standing in one state would be tried if he fired a gun across the border and killed somebody in the neighboring state:
"A person who fires a gun across a border killing a victim who is situated in another state is likely to be regarded as having committed the offence of murder in both states. However, there might be a real question as to the state in which it might be said the offence was committed. Is it where the perpetrator fires the gun? On the other hand it might be said that an offence of murder is not complete until the victim is injured such that they die, so that, on that argument, it might be said that the offence was committed where the victim was located. But there could be further complications. What if the offence is one of attempted murder in circumstances where a shot is fired but the intended victim is missed? In such a case the offence of attempted murder would be complete once the shot was fired with intent to kill. Doubtless very many more examples could be given."
At the same time, and in Lee's case, courts could decide that Irish law does not take precedence and so Lee needs to be sent back to the US for prosecution there, given that that is where the alleged offenses took place, Clarke wrote.
Although it is probably of little solace to Lee, he did make legal history in Ireland - the reading of the judgment against him was the first Irish Supreme Court proceeding ever televised.