A pizzeria owner who stole more than €16,000 from his ex-girlfriend and bet the cash on two horses has escaped going to prison.
Raul Andrei spent more than €70,000 opening up a franchise of Apache Pizza in Letterkenny, Co Donegal which he operated successfully for a number of months.
However, Letterkenny District Court heard the 46-year-old developed a gambling habit after visiting a local casino.
On October 14 last year while his partner was visiting friends in Dublin he gained access to the former house he shared with Oana Grigore at The Green, Ballymacool, Letterkenny.
He stole the money and then went to his local branch of BoyleSport Bookmakers.
He placed €10,000 on one horse and €6,720 on another at two different race meetings, but both lost.
The court heard Andrei lost a considerable amount of money the previous day and was trying to win the money back.
The accused told a friend that he had lost the money and was feeling suicidal and also telephoned his ex-partner and told her what had happened.
The stolen money had come from the business and he had given it to his ex-partner but she had hidden the money as she was aware of the accused man's gambling habit.
Andrei was very remorseful and had attended Gambler's Anonymous, and was also attending church meetings. He added that he no longer gambles.
The couple have one child together and Andrei still pays his child's creche fees and sees the child regularly.
The court heard that the accused, of Sprackburn House, Letterkenny, is now working with a local company, earns €600 per week and is anxious to pay the money back to his ex-partner.
At a previous sitting Judge Paul Kelly adjourned the case for a probation and community service report and also a to get a victim impact statement.
He also ordered Andrei to pay back the money to his ex-partner.
The court was told today that Andrei has so far paid back €1,400 and continues to support his child and makes regular payments.
Passing sentence Judge Kelly said this was a "serious theft and a serious breach of trust".
However, he added that the victim had been very compassionate towards her ex-partner and that the amount of cash taken warranted a custodial sentence.
Because of the victim's compassion and the accused's co-operation he was not sending him to jail and ordered him to complete 180 hours community service for the of €10,000 in lieu of six months in jail and a further 180 hours for the theft of €6,720 in lieu of another six months in jail.