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Saturday 23 August 2014

Mum spent €190,000 on Tarot car hotline and online shopping, court told

Sonya McLean and Declan Brennan

Published 16/01/2014 | 13:21

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A Dublin mother of two who embezzled almost €190,000 from two employers including the National Concert Hall has been jailed for one year.

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The court heard that although Mary O’Toole (44) had severe financial pressures at the time due to mounting debt, she spent the money on tarot reading hotlines and “nonsense” internet shopping.

O’Toole of Elmfield Drive, Clarehall, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sample charges of theft from Forest Tosara Ltd on dates between April 30, 2008 and September 16, 2010.

She also admitted theft of a computer hard drive from the company on February 14, 2011. Judge Mary Ellen Ring said this was an effort by O’Toole to cover her tracks.

O’Toole also pleaded guilty to sample charges of theft, totalling €49,820, from the National Concert Hall on dates between December 13, 2011 and February 22, 2012.

O’Toole began offending after her marital separation. She was diagnosed with depression in 2004 and suffered stress related alopecia.

Judge Ring said that O’Toole has now lost her good name and will find it impossible to find work in the payroll area in which she is skilled.

The judge imposed a sentence of three years imprisonment backdated to December 18 2013 and suspended the last two years.

Detective Garda Darren Burke told Michael Bowman BL, prosecuting,  that O’Toole manipulated Forest Tosara’s payroll system to lodge €139,848 into four of her bank accounts through 209 transactions.

She was initially suspended without pay in February 2011 when a colleague became suspicious and confronted her. The next day the relevant documentation went missing along with her computer.

Detective Garda Adrian Kelly of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation said the following December O’Toole secured an agency contract as an account clerk with the National Concert Hall having used a bogus CV which didn’t include details of her position with Forest Tosara.

She went on to steal from them by directing legitimate payments to creditors into her own bank accounts again by manipulating the company’s automated computer system.

When some of the companies queried the late payments O’Toole transferred money from her bank account to the relevant company’s in order to cover her tracks.

She has one previous from the District Court for stealing over €7,400 from a different employer over a number of months in 2011. She has yet to be sentenced on this matter.

Aileen Donnelly SC, defending, said O’ Toole was diagnosed with depression when she was going through a particularly stressful period due to “martial disharmony”.

Counsel said that, although the trigger for the offence was financial difficulty, instead of using the cash to pay off the mortgage, “she engaged in a nonsense type of spending”. This included ringing tarot reading hotlines and buying items online that she was never going to use or wear.

She said O’Toole accepts there was a breach of trust involved and is extremely remorseful for her actions.

Counsel said that although O’Toole paid some cash  towards some of the invoices for the National Concert Hall. She said that the amount outstanding to the National Concert Hall is now €24,684.

Det Gda Burke said gardaí received a complaint from Forest Tosara, who manufacture Sudocrem, on November 9, 2011.

Staff noticed a “considerable discrepancy” between P35 forms submitted to revenue and P60 forms relating to wages received by staff.

O’Toole had control over the payroll system in the company which was operated by a computer package called Sage.

It transpired that she while she was authorising payment of legitimate wages to staff, she was also paying salaries to staff that no longer worked in the company and directing those funds into one of her four bank accounts.

She also paid excess wages to staff but directed the surplus into her own accounts.

In February 2011 a colleague noticed the discrepancy and confronted O’Toole about it.

She denied any knowledge of the manipulation of the accounts but the following day both her computer and documentation relating to the payroll went missing.

A full financial review of all the systems was conducted and the gardaí were contacted when the company realised the extent of the fraud.

O’Toole was arrested in April 2012 following a search in her home during which the stolen computer and documents were found. She made full admissions during interview.

Det Gda Kelly said that the financial controller with the National Concert Hall contacted gardaí in March 2012 after it was noted that over €49,000 had been stolen.

O’Toole started working there under an agency contract in November 2011 and was responsible for an automated computer system that facilitated the payment of invoices received.

It was discovered that, through nine separate incidents, she had manipulated the system so that while it appeared that the relevant creditors were being paid in full and on time, the funds were actually being directed into her own bank accounts.

Det Gda Kelly said that when some of the companies queried the late payment she would pay the invoice using funds from her own bank accounts.

In January 2012 a number of queries were raised and O’Toole couldn’t deal with them.

The company requested she supply them with hard copies of the relevant documentation but she claimed they had “vanished into thin air”. She was fired and the documents were never recovered.

O’Toole was later arrested and admitted the CV she had used with the agency was “not true” because she had taken out all reference to Forest Tosara.

She admitted transferring the funds into her own bank accounts and altering the system to facilitate this.

O’Toole has since engaged with the Restorative Justice Programme and Ms Donnelly said this has helped her client understand “the real consequences” of her crimes.

Irish Independent

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