Sunday 21 July 2019

Bank thief

Plant machinery dealer who stole €41K from Bank of Ireland will be sentenced in November

Ciara Galvin

A 39-year-old man has been found guilty of the theft of €41,892 from Bank of Ireland in Sligo over two dates in October 2017.

After a six-day trial, a jury of eight men and four women unanimously found Austin O'Malley of 7, St Bridget's Terrace guilty on all six counts of theft that between October 26th and October 27th, 2017 he stole a total of €41,892 from Bank of Ireland, Stephen St, Sligo. The jury took just over two hours to find O'Malley guilty on all six charges. After the s verdict defence barrister Mr Joe Barnes applied for a Probation Report and said his client had no previous convictions.

The matter was adjourned for sentencing to November 21st next and it was heard a Victim Impact Statement from Bank of Ireland would be prepared.

Evidence in the case heard that after setting up a business account for his plant and agricultural machinery sales business in May 2017, O'Malley requested an online transfer of £39,000 (€41,200) to another machinery company on October 25th.

The court heard evidence that as this payment system is different to online banking, the transaction does not update an account in real time and before it could be registered to O'Malley's account he made several withdrawals from his business account clearing the account and putting it into €611 of an overdraft.

When the online payment was processed days later for €41,200 this in turn put the account €41,815 overdrawn. The trial heard the bank are still at a loss of this amount.

O'Malley had made lodgements to his business account between October 23rd and October 25th leaving a balance of €41,308.13 on October 25th, before requesting the sterling transfer online.

Evidence during the six-day trial heard that after the online request at 5.19pm on October 25th, O'Malley went into Bank of Ireland on Stephen St and took out two €10,000 amounts and €5,000 at the cashier's desk during three seperate transactions. O'Malley then made another withdrawal at an ATM in Bank of Ireland in Manorhamilton of €1,300 and purchased a £14,292.98 sterling draft from the business account again on the same date

On 27th October he withdrew €750 from the account at Bank of Ireland in Ballymote, and a further €550 on the same date from Bank of Ireland on Stephen St. First prosecution witness, Senior Business Specialist with Bank of Ireland, Gavin Laws, told the court he met with O'Malley on 17th May 2017 to discuss the setting up of a business account Eireann Plant and Sales Ltd and O'Malley was buying and selling commercial agriculture machinery in Northern Ireland and the UK and suggested an online payment system called FX Pay, used to decrease exchange rates. He was put in touch with Regional Treasury Manager James Clarke in relation to the system.

O'Malley was issued with a lodgement card and visa debit card for the business account and the court was told there was no overdraft facility on the account. Mr Clarke met with O'Malley in late September and was given a demo of the online payment system.

Mr Laws told the court he was made aware of an issue on 16th November, 2017 that O'Malley's business account was overdrawn by approximately €40,000.

Mr Laws said he attempted to make contact with O'Malley via mobile phone and he did not answer. He followed this up with a text correspondence in which he asked O'Malley to contact him 'ASAP'.

O'Malley told Mr Laws and another bank official, Mary King from Business Collections that it was not convenient to talk on a number of occasion as he was with a customer, or at the doctor, but said he was expecting a payment and was 'sorting things at the moment'

Mr Laws urged him to call him 'before the bank go ballistic'Text correspondence continued until November 22nd at which point all contact ceased.Laws explained that the online payment facility used by O'Malley, called FX Pay, allowed people to complete transactions like 'any other platform' and locks in payments in order to reduce exchange rates, and to pay money directly to suppliers.

Emails between banking officials were outlined to the court in which an employee, Derval Maguire, enquired from the payments section as to why a payment from an account which didn't have sufficient funds was processed and other payments are cancelled when there is insufficient funds.

The trial heard a response detailed that the payment was processed as there had been €41,000 in the account at the time of the FX pay request.

When this was put to banking analyst Mr Tom Caldwell he explained that because the request was made by O'Malley at 5.19pm if was then 'queued' for the following day.

He told the court this payment 'would never be processed until the following working day' at 5.30pm, meaning October 26th.

The analyst said FX Pay was not the same as online banking in terms of instant updates. Questioned as to how people would know this, Mr Caldwell said FX Pay customers would be aware of this.

He explained that the payment was processed on 26th October at 5.30pm and when 'the computer ran' there were no funds, and that it didn't apply to the account until 2nd November, at which point there were no funds available, but the transfer was still 'processed for value'.

Detailing a garda interview from 9th April, 2018, Garda Terry Farrelly outlined that O'Malley said there was a limit on his card and that was the reason he carried out a number of transactions between 26th and 27th of October.

O'Malley said he recalled taking money out from an ATM on 27th October and said this was to buy a car. He said the car cost £12,500 and he sold it on for £13,500, using the profit to pay bills.

When asked if he realised he had overdrawn his business account by approximately €42,000, O'Malley said, 'I had a deal done for €42,000, it was meant to be in my account on 25th October'.

O'Malley told he garda that he 'did his transfer' to OD Plant Sales [the FX Pay transfer] and when he could withdraw cash from the ATM in Manorhamilton the following day he presumed €42,000 had been lodged from 'a fella in Cookstown'. He added that it was a time later before he knew the 'deal fell through'.

Defending barrister, Mr Joe Barnes BL, instructed by McGovern and Walsh Solicitors, cross examined Bank of Ireland analyst Mr Tom Caldwell.

Mr Caldwell had given evidence in relation to analysing O'Malley's banking transactions over the three day period in October 2017 and referred to them as being 'suspicious'.

Bank transactions from a Bank of Ireland account in Enniskillen belonging to O'Malley were introduced during the trial, which showed various sterling amounts being lodged and withdrawn in quick succession at the beginning of 2017.

Among many transactions on this account outlined to the court was a lodgement of £41,600 and on the following day a transfer for £41,510 outwards was applied to the account.

Mr Barnes outlined transactions to the Bank of Ireland analyst and put it to him that if he analysed this bank account he would have seen that these types of transactions were 'usual patterns of trading' for O'Malley.

On re-cross examination by State prosecutor Ms Dara Foynes, instructed by State solicitor Elisa McHugh, Ms Foynes went through various transactions of O'Malley's Enniskillen account, including another lodgement of £100,000 on 3rd February, 2017, followed by an outgoing of £99,510 two days later.

Ms Foynes commented, 'No sooner is it in, but it is out'.

The court heard O'Malley's business account was set up on 17th May 2017, but no activity took place on the account until 23rd October.

Sligo Champion