Sunday 19 November 2017

FAS fraudster blew €600,000 on home improvements, trips abroad and a fancy car

Agency to go after his pension as ex-manager jailed for two years

Niamh O'Donoghue

FAS is to pursue a former assistant manager who defrauded the agency of more than €600,000 for the return of his pension, a court was told yesterday.

James Brooke Tyrrell spent all the cash on foreign trips, home improvements and driving a better car.

Brooke Tyrrell (54), who defrauded the agency of the money over five years, was given a four-year sentence, with two suspended.

The former assistant manager of Church Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to nine sample counts out of "80 counts on the indictment" on dates between 2003 and 2008.

Judge Patrick McCartan handed down a four-year sentence with the last two years suspended.

Message

The judge said the court must send out a message to others in a position of trust that if they breach that trust, they must expect the full rigour of the law to be brought to bear on them.

The court heard all the money had been spent, none of it had been repaid and the only asset he had left was the Brooke Tyrrell family home.

It also heard he was now being investigated by the Revenue Commissioners and has a liability arising from the cheques lodged into his bank account "from false tendering and invoicing processes".

FAS has indicated it is going to pursue him for the return of his pension, the court heard.

The defence said his client "did not have a reserve of funds" and that he had been earning €50,000 and living a lifestyle which "couldn't be supported" on that.

The money had been used for going on foreign trips, house improvements and "perhaps a better car", the defence told the court.

He said he had expressed remorse, offered his apologies and acknowledges the damage he had caused.

Detective Garda Alan Browne, of the Garda National Fraud Assessment Unit, told the prosecution that Brooke Tyrrell defrauded the agency of money on 47 instances between 2003 and 2008.

Brooke Tyrrell was an assistant manager in video production at the agency when he created the false tendering and invoicing processes, the court heard.

Det Gda Browne said a total of €618,852 was taken from FAS "unlawfully" while he was responsible for "putting out for tender work", but that this money had all been spent.

He said he then awarded the tenders to companies that had been set up by him, forged invoices then lodged the cheques into his own bank account.

Det Gda Browne said the names of the companies were very similar to legitimate companies that had previously been awarded a number of contracts by the agency.

Brooke Tyrrell would forge invoices on notepaper similar to that of the two real companies, the court heard.

Over the course of his employment he had gotten to know people who worked for FAS and dealing with two companies in particular, High Wire Ltd and Yard Media Ltd, which had previously tendered and received contacts with FAS.

The fraud was discovered when a director of Yard Media Ltd noticed the number of tenders they were being awarded had diminished significantly.

That director contacted FAS about work the company had previously tendered for unsuccessfully and was told it was awarded to a company with a very similar name called The Yard Media.

Concerns

She "became worried that another company was working under the same name" and "this raised concerns".

A statement of complaint was then issued in the latter part of 2008 and FAS launched an internal investigation.

Brooke Tyrrell was "asked to account for his discrepancies" and "he freely admitted" he engaged in the fraudulent activity before "he was suspended from his employment".

Det Gda Browne described him as "a very sociable person who co-operated fully with me".

He also said there was "no money saved" and "no repayment of any money to FAS".

"This type of crime is becoming all the more noticeable in recent times," said Judge McCartan.

He said it was a "shockingly sad case" and the accused "had led an exemplary life".

The judge said he would take into account his guilty plea and his co-operation with gardai, which was of great assistance.

He said Brooke Tyrrell had "a good record in life" and everyone should be given one chance but said that option was "not open to the court" and "felt he had to give a custodial sentence".

Irish Independent

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