AN executive with an Irish charity has been jailed after he pleaded guilty to stealing over €500,000 in the space of three years to fund an out-of-control gambling habit.
Jeremiah Collins (37) admitted the thefts from the Cork Centre for Independent Living between March 2007 and March 2010.
The former financial executive with the charity brought the matter to their attention after being wracked by guilt over his actions and the mounting sum involved.
In light of his plea and his attempts to raise compensation for the charity, Judge Sean O'Donnabhain agreed to suspend the final 18 months of a three-year sentence.
Collins, of Morehampton, Donnybrook, Dublin, admitted a total of 70 sample charges in relation to the theft of €188,000 from the Centre for Independent Living. However, Cork Circuit Criminal Court was told that the loss to the charity was actually more than €535,000.
Det Garda Tom O'Connor said that Collins had initially repaid €30,000 while the garda investigation was in its early stages. He later managed to raise a further €7,000.
Collins had proposed a repayment scheme of €400 a month over a long term in compensation, despite the fact he was now relying on part-time jobs.
However, Judge O'Donnabhain was told that the sum involved is so large that Collins stands little or no chance of ever fully repaying it.
The total loss estimated by the charity because of Collins's actions now stands at €498,586.
Det Garda O'Connor confirmed that Collins had brought the matter to the attention of the charity after his conscience began to bother him.
Judge O'Donnabhain was told that Collins feels enormous remorse over his actions and that he has taken steps to address his gambling problems.
He has attended treatment for his gambling addiction and is now working to try and help others with gambling problems.
Judge O'Donnabhain said he noted Collins early plea of guilty, his remorse and his efforts to raise compensation.
He said Collins also deserved credit for having brought the theft to the charity's attention.
The Probation and Welfare Service said that Collins poses a very low risk of re-offending.
But the judge warned that the theft involved a charity and that "a staggering sum of money" was at stake.
He said that the offence represented a very grave breach of trust given that he was the charity's financial controller.
On release from prison, Collins must also keep the peace for an 18-month period.