Tuesday 22 January 2019

Former Galway footballer who stole more than €300k from employers to feed gambling habit avoids jail

Mark Hehir leaving Galway Circuit Court. Photo: Hany Marzouk
Mark Hehir leaving Galway Circuit Court. Photo: Hany Marzouk

Caroline Crawford

A former Galway footballer who admitted stealing €300,000 from his employers to feed his gambling addiction has escaped jail after the judge said it was not in the interest of justice and would not serve any benefit.

Mark Hehir, (26) of Kilgevrin, Tuam pleaded guilty to 10 charges before Galway Circuit Criminal Court.

These related to 72 separate thefts from his then employer, the City Bin Company, on dates between April 20 and September 22, 2016. The company approached gardaí to report €305,000 was taken with €259,000 still outstanding – €29,000 has since been paid back and Hehir is now repaying the money €100 a week.

Hehir, who is now receiving addiction counselling, used the funds to gamble online.

Mr Hehir had had full control of the company’s accounts and began to move funds from the company to his own bank account. He then used the funds to gamble with a number of bookies, mostly using online accounts with bookmakers Ladbrokes and Boyle Sports.

The court heard that the thefts came to light after Mr Hehir’s father became aware of the gambling and contacted the City Bin Company to alert them to money going missing from the company.

Det Gda Gerry O’Carroll of Galway Garda Station gave evidence that Mr Hehir had co-operated fully with the investigation and made a full admission of the thefts.

The court heard that €29,000 has been paid back to the company and Mr Hehir has a further €3,000 to hand over and is now repaying €100 a week.

Since the thefts came to light, Mr Hehir has attended Hope House addiction treatment centre in Mayo to deal with his gambling addiction. He continues to attend gambling and addiction counselling.

The court heard that Mr Hehir was heavily involved in the GAA and it was through GAA contacts that he secured the job with the City Bin Company.

Defence counsel Bernard Madden questioned if there had been any investigation done with the various bookmakers to see how a young man with limited means was capable to getting this kind of money.

A probation report stated Mr Hehir, who has no prior convictions, was unlikely to re-offend, took full responsibility for his actions and had clearly shown remorse.

The 10 counts each carry a 10 year maximum sentence.

Judge Rory McCabe said the case highlighted the evils of addiction and should be “a red letter warning to any parent” to keep an eye on their children and what they are doing online.

He said Mr Hehir had started out using small amounts of money to gamble before stealing larger and larger sums.

“Bookies aren’t in the business of losing money and the young man got in deeper and deeper,” he added.

He described the crimes as mid range on the scale of severity and said they merited a headline sentence of four years on each count before mitigation was taken into account.

Taking the mitigating factors, that Mr Hehir had co-operated fully, pleaded guilty, attends counselling and continues to pay back the sums, Judge McCabe said the sentence would reduce to two years. However, he said he did not believe a custodial sentence would be in the interest of society.

He sentenced Mr Hehir to 240 hour community service on the first count and two years jail to be suspended for five years on the balance of the counts. He ordered that Mr Hehir would remain gambling free, does not open a bookies account, continues to attend counselling for a further two years and pays back €100 a week to the company.

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