A failed nightclub owner is behind bars today after running a bizarre birth certificate scam in which he travelled the country registering 26 non-existent babies.
Rory McWhirter, from the West End, was sentenced to 28 months at Dundee Sheriff Court yesterday after admitting the £34,000 organised benefit fraud.
It marked a dramatic fall from grace for the 29-year-old, coming seven years after he opened a doomed plush nightspot selling £450 bottles of bubbly to Capital revellers.
Bankrolled by friends and family – including Aberdeen-based businessman dad Andy – McWhirter once boasted of his ambitious plans to transform Foutainbridge on the back of the Hyde Out club he opened in 2010.
The court heard from McWhirter’s solicitor John McLeod that he needed the money to prop up a failing property business.
“He has had two failed businesses – first a bar that was swiftly run into the ground and the property company,” said Mr McLeod.
“He felt he couldn’t go back to his family – who are successful – for a second bailout, so came up with this scheme.”
McWhirter concocted the complicated scheme while living with his paediatric doctor girlfriend in Dundee, who had charges against her dropped.
He obtained birth certificates with forged letters claiming home births for couples whose identities he had stolen through a fake online job ad.
The £80,000-a-year company director then used the birth certificates for non-existent children to claim for tax credits, child benefit and maternity grants.
McWhirter, of Douglas Crescent, was only caught after returning to the scene of one of his early false birth registrations at Aberdeen registry office where he was recognised by staff.
In the end it was McWhirter’s flash BMW Z4 convertible car that he used to travel to the registrar offices across Scotland that led police to his door.
Back in 2010, McWhirter opened the Hyde Out club at Edinburgh Quay after borrowing a six-figure start-up loan from his dad.
The club’s storm-lashed opening was a sign of things to come as a city coming out of recession shunned its decor of hand-designed pink wallpaper and vintage wine glass chandeliers.
He once told the Evening News: “We’re taking business from places in the city centre like Tigerlily.
“And if all this works, we’ll be able to single-handedly raise the whole area.”
McWhirter’s firm behind Hyde Out, Haymarket Terrace-based LA White, was wound up in January and the club closed.
Police traced McWhirter’s BMW with a private plate to his girlfriend’s home in Dundee after he visited Edinburgh registrars in June 2015 to register a birth.
“He provided full admissions stating he was in severe financial difficulty and needed money,” said Fiscal depute Vicki Bell.
Bank cards, computer equipment and approximately 50 birth certificates from the Republic of Ireland and documentation relating to claiming benefits were seized at the Dundee address.
McWhirter pleaded guilty on indictment to a charge of fraud committed between June 1, 2014 and October 22, 2015 at addresses across Scotland.
In total, he claimed tax credits of £14,222.48, child benefits of £19,658.70 and a Sure Start maternity grant of £500 – a total of £34,381.18.
Sheriff Alastair Carmichael said: “This was a fairly sophisticated fraudulent scheme.”