Police have described as ‘absolutely reckless’ a Randalstown company boss who sold ordinary laminate glass as higher quality fire safety glass to the construction industry in a fraud in excess of £500,000 affecting schools, hospitals and care homes.
Seamus James Laverty (58), of Deerpark Road, Toomebridge ran Glassworks Ireland from premises at Randalstown in Co Antrim. Today at Antrim Crown Court he admitted 28 charges of fraud by false representation. He was given a two year sentence, 12 months of which will be in custody and 12 months on licence. £12,000 and a company computer were seized in a compensation order and a court order was also made to destroy the seized glass.
In the spring of 2013 police became aware of concerns about the quality of glass supplied by Glassworks Ireland. It was feared that ordinary laminate glass was being sold as higher quality fire safety glass with obvious health and safety risks for people in buildings where the glass had been fitted and firefighters.
Glassworks Ireland was selling glass as Pyroguard fire safety glass but it was fake: a stencil bearing the Pyroguard logo had been used to mark inferior quality glass. Pyroguard is a legitimate brand whose owners CGI International provide approved fire safety glass and were in no way involved in the fraud.
Detective Sergeant Colin Gray, from Reactive and Organised Crime Branch in Antrim, said: “Officers contacted Pyroguard and visited a number of sites in Northern Ireland where their glass was supposed to have been installed. It turned out to be ordinary laminate glass supplied by Glassworks Ireland.
“In August 2013 police searched Glassworks premises in Randalstown and found standard laminate glass stamped as Pyroguard. Detectives arrested three men including Seamus James Laverty and interviewed a number of other individuals linked to the company.”
As the company did not co-operate with police to reduce the obvious health risks by providing a list of customers, detectives were forced to contact an extensive catalogue of building contractors to check if they had installed Pyroguard glass supplied by Glassworks Ireland.
Contractors then had to revisit sites and buildings across the UK and Ireland to have glass inspected and, if necessary, replaced. One contractor had to travel to Holland to make the checks.
DS Gray said: “Following a police media appeal for companies to come forward, detectives contacted a total of 87 firms and partner agencies as part of this investigation and 97 sites were inspected. More than 20 companies made complaints that they had been defrauded.
“We estimate the total cost of this fraudulent activity to be in excess of £500,000, given the initial cost of the fake glass and the cost of replacing it. Glassworks Ireland bought laminate glass for between £8-£16 per sq metre and sold it for between £135-£240 psm. There was undoubtedly potential for substantial profits to be made.
“The financial victims were construction companies which bought glass in good faith and then had to replace it. But there were many more potential human victims who were exposed to unnecessary risk through no fault of their own, simply by being in buildings which did not have the appropriate fire safety glass installed.
“These included patients in hospitals, pupils in schools, residents in care homes and students at university as well as firefighters in the UK and Ireland who are provided with greater protection by the fire resistant qualities of genuine fire safety glass.
“This was a fraud designed to make large amounts of money but which put lives, many of them vulnerable lives, at risk. It was dangerous and absolutely reckless.”
PSNI wish to acknowledge to assistance of a broad range of agencies which assisted during this protracted investigation and helped to reduce the risks posed by Laverty’s fraudulent activity. The organisations include An Garda Siochana, Dublin Fire Brigade, CGI International, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and a range of other local authorities.