Saturday 3 December 2016

Credit union man stole €1.7m to fund gambling addiction

Sonya McLean

Published 12/11/2015 | 02:30

Paul O’Brien ‘went astray’
Paul O’Brien ‘went astray’

A credit controller who stole almost €1.7m from Finglas Credit Union over a seven-year period by taking out bogus loans and stealing cheques has been jailed for three years.

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Paul O'Brien (51) took out additional fraudulent loans in order to make repayments on the pre-existing ones. The money was used to fund his severe gambling addiction, and on three occasions to pay either his mortgage or credit card bills.

Gda Lisa Sheehan confirmed that the total amount taken from the credit union was €1,669,696 in the form of 215 fraudulent loans and 13 stolen cheques. However, because he used some of the cash to make repayments on the loans, the total net loss to the credit union was €453,300.

O'Brien, of O'Valley Park Road, Finglas, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sample charges that included nine counts of stealing various amounts of cash from Finglas Credit Union and one charge of falsifying a loan application in the amount of €17,000 on dates between February 26, 2005 and May 12, 2012.

The married father-of-three had no previous convictions, and a number of documents were handed in to court to confirm he had a severe gambling problem at the time.

His lawyers had argued that his addiction was so serious that he could not help himself from stealing the money.

He has since sought help for his addiction and has not come to any further garda attention. O'Brien has been out of work since his crimes came to light.

Judge Martin Nolan said O'Brien was a good member of society who is unlikely to re- offend. He said that while he has no other criminal record, the extent of his offending meant he must be jailed.

"He is a very good man who went completely astray," the judge said. He said O'Brien's position of trust and his abuse of that power were aggravating factors.

Gda Sheehan told Fergal Foley, prosecuting, that O'Brien worked as a credit controller with Finglas Credit Union during the time of the offences.

She said it was noted by staff during an audit in May 2012 that many of the existing loans exceeded the ratio of 4:1 between loan amount and shares held.

The loans were investigated, and it was noted that O'Brien had made repayments on them. Gardai were contacted and O'Brien was nominated as a suspect.

Irish Independent

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