A grandmother who defrauded her lover's company of €77,000 after she was appointed as financial controller has been given a suspended sentence.
Australian Cheryl Nielsen (42) lodged stolen cheques directly to her account and cashed others through an unwitting boutique where she was spending €20,000 a year on luxury goods, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.
Nielsen, of Townree House, Oughterard, Co Galway, admitted five sample counts of stealing cheques from Ancove Enterprises Ltd, which were drawn on its customers' accounts on dates between July and September 2007.
Customers affected included Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the HSE, Woodies DIY, Tesco and Supervalu. Bank of Ireland are currently at a loss of €68,189 and AIB at a loss of €9,162.
Judge Tony Hunt imposed a four-year sentence, suspended for four years on condition Nielsen hands over the proceeds of her pension and savings account as compensation within four months.
The court also heard she had €25,000 worth of jewellery, some of which was bought with the stolen money. She has agreed to hand it all over as compensation but the gardai expect to only get 40pc of its value, about €10,000.
Judge Hunt called it a "unsophisticated crime" and said Nielsen had "squandered the money on the high life."
Garda Ronan Cloughar told Gerardine Small, prosecuting, that the original director of recycling company Ancove, Robert McAuley, employed Nielsen as a salesperson in 2003. After they became romantically involved, she took over the financial control of the company.
Gda Cloughar said another company called PHS bought Ancove and Nielsen stayed on in a consultancy position during the takeover.
PHS installed their own trained credit accountant, Catherine Morgan, and suspicions were aroused when customers who appeared to owe the company money said they had already sent cheques which had been cashed.
A history of cheques was compiled and it was found that some had made their way into the bank account of Nielsen or were cashed by an unsuspecting shop owner. Nielsen was arrested in May 2008.
Nielsen, who came to Ireland in 2001 from Australia, told gardai she bought €20,000 worth of clothes each year from a favourite boutique where she also cashed some third party cheques. She said she also bought some jewellery with the money.
She agreed with gardai that she was "living the high life" and buying expensive clothes and shoes.
Roisin Lacey, defending, told Judge Hunt that Nielsen bitterly regretted her offending and accepted it was not committed to feed her two children.