A POST OFFICE manger who gambled €40,000 on a Norwegian ladies soccer team as part of a €1.75m gambling spree that went wrong has been sentenced to four years in prison.
Tony O’Reilly (37) took the money from the post office over a 14 month period to feed his gambling habit, Wexford Circuit Court heard today.
He had previously pleaded guilty to six offences of theft at Gorey Post Office appeared before Judge Pauline Codd this afternoon for sentencing.
He had also pleaded guilty to six charges of falsifying An Post lodgement dockets for accounting purposes between December 6, 2010, and June 29, 2011.
The court had heard that his gambling included putting a bet of €40,000 on the Norwegian Ladies soccer team.
The incidents only came to light in June of last year when a regional audit was being carried out at Gorey Post Office.
Wexford Circuit Court heard that O’Reilly had developed a chronic gambling problem. He had an account called ‘Tony Ten’ with Paddy Power Bookmakers.
When the account was examined it was found that over the period of time it had a turnover of €10m, with €8.3m in winnings and €1.7m euro in losses.
Det. Ian Hayes of Gorey Garda Station had told the court that O’Reilly said that the theft started at the post office by sometimes taking a bag of coins from a larger bag which then was not checked.
If it was a bag of 2 euro coins he would replace it with a bag of 2c coins in an attempt to make up the weight.
In April 2010, O’Reilly had taken around €8,000 which increased over the months to €80,000 and by the end of the year he had taken €280,000.
At that stage to cover himself during an audit, he brought an accountable receipt for €97,538 into the toilet with him at work and changed it to €397,538 thus concealing the misappropriation.
The following six months he lost the run of himself the court heard, and was involved in sparadic, random and worldwide bets, including betting €40,000 on the outcome of a match involving the Norweegian Ladies soccer team.
His method of taking money out of the Post Office included removing €50 notes with a pliers from the middle of a bundle of notes containing €50,000.
Gardai said O’Reilly is married with a two-year-old child lives in Carlow. He co-operated at all times with them.
O’Reilly joined An Post in 1998 and worked for a time in Tallaght before returning to Carlow. In 2009 he was appointed manager in Gorey.
He was known as the ‘Golden Child’ in An Post because he was so young when appointed manager.
His Defence Counsel, Patrick McCarthy, S.C. said O’Reilly did not benefit at all from the money that he still lives in an ordinary, modest house, and that Paddy Power Bookmakers had viewed him as a highly valued customer, even bringing him on all expenses trips to the Europa League Final in the Aviva Stadium and the Irish Derby race meeting, and also to Punchestown.
Mr. McCarthy also said that alarm bells should have gone off with the bookmakers.
The court heard that O’Reilly had given up gambling completely, has attended courses at addiction centres, wants to become an addiction counsellor and has co-operated fully with gardai.
Judge Codd said today O’Reilly, with an address at 10 Sandhills, Hacketstown Road, Carlow, had the pattern of somebody out of control and as he said himself had lost the run of himself.
She said he had engaged in a serious breach of trust over a significant period of time and his theft was deliberate and systematic. She also said that he had disappeared for 11 days after the theft was discovered.
In mitigating factors, she said he had no previous conviction, came from a respectable family. What he did was totally out of character. He was in the throes of a gambling addiction, accepts fully and sincerely regrets his actions and has taken significant steps at addiction counselling. She added he was at a low risk of reoffending and he assisted the gardai fully after his return, pleaded guilty thus saving a lengthy garda investigation.
Each charge carried a maximum sentence of ten years.
Judge Codd sentenced him to four years in prison but suspended the final year on condition that when he comes out of prison he attends further gambling addiction counselling.
Members of his family were in court and his wife broke down in tears when the sentence was been handed down.