Tuesday 25 October 2016

Insurance manager who stole €220k over six years to pay off drugs debt avoids jail sentence

Sonya McLean

Published 11/05/2016 | 17:04

A senior claims manager who defrauded her employer of €220,000 over six years so she could pay off a spiralling drug debt has received a two and half year suspended sentence.

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Naila Zaffer (38) , who is originally from Halifax in Yorkshire but is now living in Tulfarris Village, Blessington, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to ten sample charges including forgery, using a false instrument and theft from IPB Insurance on dates between April 2007 and August 2012.

She stole a total of €221,685 over 18 transactions. She has no previous convictions.

Judge Terence O'Sullivan said Zaffer's position enabled her to engineer the frauds and accepted that the crime was “motivated by a form of physical compulsion”. He acknowledged that she pleaded guilty and assisted the garda investigation.

The judge said he was “willing to take chance on her” as he said he didn't believe society would benefit from jailing her.

He suspended the sentence in full on condition that she attend for residential treatment and remain under the supervision of the Probation Service for the two and half years.

“I hope she will come out as a useful member of society who is unlikely to re-offend,” Judge O'Sullivan said.

Garda Shane Behan told Garett McCormack BL, prosecuting that the fraud was discovered when a colleague, who was covering for Zaffer as she was out sick, noticed some “anomalies”. This triggered an internal investigation and Zaffer was suspended. She was ultimately fired in February 2014.

He said Irish Public Body Insurance were the underwriters for the County Council. Zaffer was in charge of processing claims and issuing cheques in relation to those claims.

Over the course of the fraud she would add a fourth a person to a claim and forge various documentation to support the bogus claim. She would then get a cheque issued in the name of the fictitious claimant and would lodge it to a bank account which she had access to.

Zaffer would use one of five names on each fake claim. The names she used were relations of Zaffer's and she would ask their permission to lodge the cheque into their bank account. She claimed her own was overdrawn and said the cheques were bonuses from work.

Zaffer is still out of work and is on social welfare. She has never paid back her employer and Gda Behan said he doesn't believe she is in a position to do so.

He agreed with James Dwyer BL, defending, that Zaffer denied that she was “taking the rap for other people” and told gardaí she was taking responsibility for her own actions.

She said a recreational cocaine habit had escalated and she had been spending €250 per day on the drug at the time of her arrest.

Zaffer said she had initially been buying the drugs on credit and the bills escalated.

Gda Behan said the bank transactions were consistent with her admissions. She would withdraw large sums of cash from the ATM on a daily basis.

Mr Dwyer said his client had a degree in genetics and grew up in a strict Muslim family. She cut her ties with her family when she moved to Ireland and had never re-established contact with them.

Zaffer started working in the insurance industry as soon as she came to Ireland. She progressed well and had a position of responsibility at the time of her arrest.

Counsel said both Zaffer and her partner had a cocaine habit but neither of them used the drugs anymore. They were living with his sister in a rural part of Wicklow.

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