A senior claims official who defrauded her employer of €220,000 over six years has been sent to jail on foot of an appeal by prosecutors.
Naila Zaffer (38), with an address in Tulfarris Village, Blessington Co Wicklow, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to ten sample counts of using a false instrument, theft and attempted theft from IPB Insurance on dates between April 2007 and August 2012.
She was give a wholly suspended two-and-a-half year sentence by Judge Terence O'Sullivan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on May 11, 2015.
In October, the Court of Appeal found Zaffer's sentence to be “unduly lenient” on foot of an application for a review of sentence by the Director of Public Prosecutions. She was jailed for eight months today.
Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said Zaffer, who is originally from Halifax in Yorkshire, was a senior insurance claims official for the Irish Public Bodies Insurance Company.
Mr Justice Mahon said Zaffer forged insurance claims by adding an additional claim to policies paid out by IPB Insurance. The amount in question was €221,600.
The Circuit Court judge had noted that the money defrauded had not been recovered. He asked rhetorically whether there was any point in imprisoning her.
Zaffer had no previous convictions, she had had a drug addition which motivated the offending and she had lost her job as a consequence of what she did, the Circuit Court judge noted.
Mr Justice Mahon said serious pre-meditated fraud over a prolonged period will almost always merit a prison sentence. Only the existence of exceptional circumstances could result in a suspended sentence.
Mr Justice Mahon said the two-and-a-half year headline sentence was appropriate.
“Strong mitigation” included her co-operation, plea of guilty, genuine remorse, lack of previous convictions and difficult background. She was “psychologically vulnerable” and very positive probation reports indicated an ambition to deal with her addiction difficulties and avoid reoffending.
These factors desreved particular leniency, Mr Justice Mahon said. In addition, having enjoyed her liberty since last February, she now faced “a reversal of that status” which was significantly more difficult for her than if she received an immediate custodial sentence.
Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, suspended all but eight months of her two-and-a-half year sentence.
Zaffer was required to enter into a good behaviour bond for the suspended period. When asked if she undertook to be so bound, she said “I do”, before being lead away to serve her sentence.