Tuesday 20 February 2018

Man attempted to steal €170,000 from HSE to cover debts

Former HSE employee David Cooper pictured previously at Cork district court
Former HSE employee David Cooper pictured previously at Cork district court

Ralph Regal

A MAN with three disabled children who ran up personal debts of €70,000 attempted to steal €170,000 from the Health Service Executive (HSE) to cover his financial commitments.

David Cooper (53) sobbed as Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that he made "pathetic" attempts to carry out his crimes and was always going to get caught.

When confronted by Gardai at the hospital where he worked after concerns were raised during a routine HSE audit, Cooper became involved in an emotional stand-off with officers.

Gardai, who were attempting to seizure computers and files from Cooper's office at St Mary's Hospital, were forced to intervene when he began to self-harm.

Cooper formerly of Apt 6, 7 Southern Road, Cork worked as a HSE administrator for 12 years dealing with maintenance matters.

He faced a total of 12 counts.

Cooper was charged with six counts of theft involving a total of €55,450 from the HSE between June 6 and June 27 2012; four counts of attempting theft between June 29 and July 6 2012 involving €107,314 and two counts of theft from Pat Hennerty Ltd and Forest Print Ltd involving €5,811 and €1,804 respectively over the same period.

Cooper devised a scheme whereby false invoices would be submitted from fictitious companies for work that never took place and the payments subsequently lodged to his accounts.

Judge Sean O'Donnabhain heard that Cooper has three children aged under 11 years.

All three are autistic and all three have various physical disabilities.

By early 2012, Cooper had run up personal debts of almost €70,000 via three credit union loans, credit cards and bank loans.

"He saw an opportunity (at work) and he took advantage of it," explained defence counsel, Sinead Behan BL.

Cooper made an immediate admission to gardai when confronted about the suspect invoices.

He was later treated for psychiatric issues and, for a time, lived rough.

Cooper is now staying with a friend in east Cork.

Judge O'Donnabhain was told that, of the €170,000 Cooper attempted to steal, the HSE are still at a loss of €42,000.

Gardai said there is little or no prospect of the money being recovered.

However, Ms Behan said Cooper had a HSE pension worth €30,000 which he is now willing to sign over to the HSE for lump sum compensation.

He resigned his job shortly after the offences came to light.

"This is a very serious matter...it is a serious breach of trust," the judge warned.

He described Cooper's attempted thefts as "pathetic" but said he must get credit for his early plea, his co-operation with gardai and the ongoing efforts to repay the outstanding debt to the HSE.

Judge O'Donnabhain was told that there has been "a substantial change" in Cooper's lifestyle and, for a time, he was living homeless.

The judge said he will impose a two year suspended prison sentence next January if legal proof is lodged in court that Cooper has signed his pension benefits over to the HSE.

Irish Independent

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