Friday 20 September 2019

Employee stole €400,000 from credit union to 'impress others'

Stock photo
Stock photo

Ralph Riegel

A trusted employee admitted the theft of more than €400,000 from a credit union and spending the cash just to impress others.

Judge Sean O Donnabháin told Moira Coughlan (55) the breach of trust she committed was "phenomenal" as she pleaded guilty to withdrawing funds from the accounts of deceased credit union members in an elaborate scheme over seven years.

The mother of one appeared before Cork Circuit Criminal Court after pleading guilty to a total of 592 charges in respect of Synergy/Fermoy Credit Union, Co Cork.

The charges involved theft, unlawful use of a computer and false accounting.

Judge O Donnabháin warned that, irrespective of compensation raised, he could not deal with the case on a fully suspended sentence basis.

"This was a phenomenal breach of trust. The level of culpability, the level of fraud involved in this case is on the phenomenally high (level)," he said.

Defence counsel Patrick O'Riordan BL asked for sentencing to be adjourned.

He said his client hopes to be able to offer up to €200,000 in compensation through an inheritance, a pension and other means. Judge O Donnabháin remanded Coughlan in custody.

Mr O'Riordan told the court his client had suffered greatly from her actions.

"There was a robbing of Peter to pay Paul element. All the money is dissipated. She wanted the money to fund lifestyle expenses," he said.

"She was spending the money to get positive attention from others. There were others willing to benefit from her largesse."

Detective Garda James O'Shea told the court a Synergy Credit Union official first became concerned about a transaction in 2016.

The defendant worked as an insurance officer for the credit union, a senior and very trusted position which allowed her access to the accounts of members who had died pending the accounts clearing probate. Over the seven-year period, she withdrew a total of €407,441.94.

The lowest total annual withdrawal from such accounts was €6,000 in 2009 and the biggest was €107,350 in 2016.

"She would make a transaction from (one) deceased (member) account to pay off a (deceased member) account when it finished probate," he said.

Synergy had since refunded all unauthorised withdrawals.

"No member of the credit union was left out of pocket," Det Gda O'Shea said.

The defendant, of The Stables, Mineville, Knocknahorgan, Sallybrook, Glanmire, Co Cork, will now be sentenced on February 8.

Irish Independent

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