Tuesday 19 September 2017

Four years jail for €1.7m fraud


A FORMER Post Office manager who pleaded guilty to a €1.7 million fraud to finance his gambling addiction has been sentenced to four years in prison, with the final one of those years suspended.

37-year-old Tony O'Reilly, with an address at 10 Sandhills, Hacketstown Road, Carlow, was before Wexford Circuit Court this week on six charges of theft from Gorey Post Office and six charges of falsifying An Post lodgement dockets there between December of 2010 and June of last year.

The court heard how O'Reilly had a chronic gambling problem and was betting up to €40,000 per day, mainly online. He once had a single bet of €40,000 on the Norwegian ladies soccer team, which turned out to be a loser, while he also had bets on the Iranian under-23 soccer team, the New York Giants American Football team, and assorted snooker, tennis, horse racing and other soccer contests.

It further heard how O'Reilly was seen as 'a valued customer' by Paddy Power bookmakers, and how they brought him on trips to Punchestown Racecourse and the Aviva Stadium.

Detective Garda Ian Hayes outlined details of the offences to the court last Tuesday. He told how the thefts took place between May 2010 and June 2011. All the money involved was property of An Post.

Detective Garda Hayes told the court that an internal audit was being carried out, by an An Post Regional Office from Portlaoise, when the matter came to light on June 29, 2011. Gardai, he said, received a telephone call from a Mr. Cremin to say that 'significant' funds were missing. Around the same time, they became aware that Post Office Manager Tony O'Reilly had not turned up for work. Another An Post employee had received a text message from him, saying that he had been in a crash.

Later that day, around 4 p.m., said Detective Garda Hayes, he was informed that the amout missing from the Post Office was in the region of €1.7 million. A full scale investigation was immediately launched by the Gardai and An Post.

As part of the investigation, a number of warrants were executed on Paddy Power Bookmakers and also on a private house, a Gardai sought all relevant information. One of the first items they located in Paddy Powers was details of an account named ' Tony Ten', which was operated by Tony O'Reilly. They obtained a printout of all transactions on the account.

There was evidence there, he said, of a turnover on the account of €10 million. €8.3 million of this had been winnings, so this left a nett loss of €1.7 million. He said bets had been placed across a wide variety of sports, with one bet of €40,000 on the Norwegian women's soccer team on June 9 last year being 'indicative of the type of betting taking place'. Bets were ' global' in the final six months of the timeframe involved, he added.

Tony O'Reilly remained missing for some time, and after he was located, Gardai spoke with him on July 11 last year. In fairness to the defendant, Detective Garda Hayes said, he explained all matters involved, such has how he had made the bets and how he covered the losses.

One offence involved him changing the figure on a docket from €97,538.32 to read €397,538.32

At other times, O'Reilly would take cash out of a safe, and then when doing accounts he would inflate the figure he was giving for the money in the safe, putting down larger figures than what were really there. On other occasions, he would take €2,000 worth of €50 notes from wrapped bundles of €50,000. Taking the €2,000 from the larger amount would still leave the wrapped bundles 'fairly tight' and it would not be immediately obvious to anybody that any money had gone missing.

Defence Counsel, Patrick McCarthy S.C., said the defendant is a married man, married to Lorraine with one child, and that he lives in what could be described as ' a family home with no extravagance'. He also told the court how Paddy Power Bookmakers had been in personal contact with Tony O'Reilly, whom they looked upon as a valued customer. They brought him on an all expenses paid trip to Punchestown and also tto he Aviva Stadium.

Mr. McCarthy said the defendant had the support of which wife and family, who were in court with him. He also said that his plea of guilty had saved the State a considerable amount of money. He has attended Cuan Mhuire for counselling while he must remain a member of Gamblers Anonymous for the rest of his life.

The defendant, he said, he no previous convictions.

Judge Pauline Codd pointed out how O'Reilly had held a position ' of significant trust' as branch manager of Gorey Post Office. She said it is clear that O'Rielly sincerely regrets his actions and took full responsibility for his behaviour. He's at low risk of re-offending, has shown genuine remorse and is ashamed of what he has done. He gave significant co-operation to the gardai, which helped in an investigation which otherwise would have been quite complex. He has suffered loss of standing in the community while he also has brought shame on himself and his family, having come from a very respectable family.

She said that in the public interest, a custodial sentence would be required. On the count of the theft of €751,000 she imposed a four-year term, with one year suspended. She imposed concurrent sentenes on the other theft offences, suspending them for five years on condition that O'Reilly co-operate with the Probation Services on his release from prison and be of good behaviour. He is also to continue to receive treatment for his gambling problem.