No jail for 'cunning' accountant who stole €50,000 from clients

No jail for 'cunning' accountant who stole €50,000 from clients

A former accountant who spent €50,000 he stole from business clients, to pay for a piano, landscape gardening, and home repairs, has avoided a jail sentence, writes David Raleigh.

Kieran O'Halloran (aged 44), who pleaded guilty to a number of thefts, and forgery, was described by presiding judge Tom O'Donnell as "cold, calculating, and cunning".

O'Halloran, a separated father of three, admitted 16 counts of theft; one count of forgery; and, one count of making a false cheque for his own financial gain.

O'Halloran,of Keelgrove, Ardnacrusha, worked as a self-employed financial controller and accountant to a number of business clients, from whom he embezzled money.

Limerick Circuit Court heard he stole almost €50,000 from business associates and clients.

O'Halloran carried out the frauds by singing chequebook stubs with the details of valid company creditors, but diverted the payments to his own bank account to pay for a host of lavish personal gifts and home improvements.

John O'Sullivan, prosecuting, said Halloran cashed a €3,500 a client's company cheque on a piano, "yet there was no piano" at the firm.

Another cheque worth €3,000 was spent on O'Halloran's "house repairs, tiling, and landscaping," Mr O'Sullivan added.

O'Halloran, who also worked as an accountant for a hair salon, was asked to make out a cheque for €7,200 payable to Revenue, so the firm could pay its tax returns.

O'Halloran diverted the money to his own bank account instead, the court heard. The unpaid tax bill was increased by a revenue to over €11,000.

Today the court heard O'Halloran had made restitution on the company's outstanding tax bill.

None of O'Halloran's victims had any knowledge of his fraudulent activities.

In mitigation, it was heard that O'Halloran wrote a letter in which he stated he "took the coward's way out" after running into financial difficulties during the recession.

O'Halloran, who no longer works in the financial sector, also apologised to all parties who were at a loss.

Defence barrister, Michael Collins, said: "He is now a criminal and will be recognised as such, and that, he knows is a serious price to pay."

At an earlier sentencing hearing, the court advised O'Halloran to pay "as soon as possible" the outstanding Revenue bill on behalf of Angel Hair Design, Limerick.

The payment has been made the court heard without prejudice to any future possible fictive proceeding.

At the hearing the judge paid tribute to the late Detective Garda Margaret Nagle, Henry Sreet Garda Station, for her "dogged tenacity" in successfully following up on a "chaotic" paper trail left behind by O'Halloran.

The court heard, Det Nagle's colleagues, as well as a team of accountants employed by the Revenue Commissioners to help investigate the fraudulent money trail , "couldn't make sense" of it.

"I knew Detective Garda Nagle, and there's no doubt (the investigation) has all the hallmarks of her tenacity in investigating and follow through," judge O'Donnell said.

Today he imposed a three-year suspended sentence on O'Halloran, who he said had "used his accountancy skill set" to carry out his crimes.

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