Friday 27 April 2018

Youth Centre manager jailed for stealing €100,000 from her employers

Conor Gallagher

A YOUTH centre manager who stole over €100,000 from her employers in a six month period has been jailed for two years.

Sonia Delaney (47) stole up to €9,000 a week from Fettercairn Community and Youth Centre to fund her massive gambling addiction.

The court heard that by the time she was caught she had lost all the money.

Delaney would use the centre’s accounts to write cheques made out to cash which she would then cash at her local supermarket.

She covered up the thefts by forging bank statements on her computer which she would present to the board of management.

She was only caught when Bank of Ireland rang a member of the board of management to say that the centre’s accounts were overdrawn.

Delaney of Drumcairn Avenue, Tallaght pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to theft of €105,970 and using a forged cheque between January 4 and June 9, 2011.

Judge Martin Nolan called it a “morally reprehensible” crime and noted that Delaney almost caused the youth centre to close as a result of the loss. He accepted she was overcome with a gambling addiction but said she must face a jail term.

Detective Garda Colin Rochford told prosecuting counsel Gerardine Small BL that Delaney worked as the community centre manager since 2008. The centre was funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and had three full time staff.

The centre had two bank accounts: one was for lodging money from grants and fundraisers and one for payment of the staff’s wages. In June 2007 the bank sent a letter to the board of management stating both accounts were overdrawn.

An investigation began and the board asked Delaney to come in for a meeting and bring the youth centre’s financial records with her.

Delaney never turned up but later had her mother hand in bank statements to the centre showing both accounts to be in their normal condition and not overdrawn. The bank later confirmed these documents were forged.

The investigation showed that over a six month period Delaney had cashed 72 cheques for amounts ranging from €300 to €3000. In one week alone she cashed cheques worth €9000.

She later handed herself into gardai and made full admissions. She said she fell behind in her mortgage payments and developed a gambling habit. Initially she was spending half her wages on poker and roulette before she started to steal from the youth centre.

She told gardai she knew what she was doing was wrong but couldn’t stop herself as she was “in a very dark place.” The court heard she is currently unemployed and has no previous convictions.

Defence counsel Sean Gillane SC said that this was not a case of white collar crime but rather “blue collar crime”. He said it is “a pathetic case of someone who throws themselves on the mercy of the court.”

Counsel said Delaney has lived at home with her parents all her adult life and is now her mother’s sole carer after the death of her father. He said Delaney is seeking help for her gambling addiction but “probably has a very bleak future.”

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