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Manager stole to buy her home, car and luxury breaks

A woman defrauded her employer out of €475,000 over three years to buy a luxury car and foreign holidays.

Lorraine Gregory (38) used the proceeds of forged company cheques to buy a house, an Audi A4 car and and other luxury items.

Gregory, of Forest View, Wheaton Hall, Drogheda, pleaded guilty to 23 sample charges of theft and forgery on dates unknown between August 2001 and March 2004.

Sentencing was adjourned until July.

Detective Sergeant Pascal Walsh told Ms Tara Burns BL, prosecuting, that Gregory came to work for telecommunications company Off Air Electronics Ltd as an accounts clerk in 1995.

Company director Donal Keys promoted Gregory to general accounts manager after four years.

Mr Keys entrusted Gregory to compile monthly bank reconciliations. Gregory was also charged with forwarding newly issued Bank of Ireland cheque books posted to the company offices directly to Mr Keys.

In early 2004, Det Sgt Walsh said that Mr Keys became concerned when he noticed two cheques cashed out of sequence.

In April 2004 Mr Keys identified another two cheques cashed out of sequence. Bank of Ireland told him they had found a further five cheques cashed outside the usual time frame.

Over the Easter bank holiday, Mr Keys asked Gregory to help find the cause of the out-of-sequence cheques.

Mr Keys told gardai that he became suspicious when Gregory said she identified the payments as cheques sent to the Collector General and a freight company.

Det Gda Walsh said there were no VAT invoices to the payments Gregory had supposedly identified.

Gregory then showed Mr Keys a series of forged cheques made out to the Collector General and a transport company and told him these correlated to the out-of-sync payments.

When Mr Keys voiced his scepticism, Gregory confessed that the cheques were actually made out to her name and that she had altered the payee name.

Gregory also told Mr Keys her sister had admitted to stealing a company cheque book.

When Mr Keys demanded that Gregory's sister bring the cheque book back, she said her sister was in hospital.

Mr Keys then went to his local Bank of Ireland branch where he recognised the handwriting on the cheques as that of Lorraine Gregory.

Gregory confessed and signed a statement to the effect that she had forged signatures on stolen company cheques to the value of €170,000.

Gregory's father agreed to pay €20,000 to the Keys family in a lump sum and a further €300,000 within 30 days.

The Keys family contacted gardai when they realised that Gregory's liability far exceeded the €300,000 she and her father originally agreed to pay back.

Gregory admitted to using the proceeds of the cheques to fund the purchase of a new car and house, book a holiday and try to buy a tanning salon.