A financial administrator for a charity for people with disabilities was yesterday jailed for 18 months for theft of more than €500,000.
Jeremiah Collins, aged 35, who lives at an apartment at Morehampton, Donnybrook, Dublin, was employed by the Cork Centre for Independent Living, an organisation facilitating the independence of people with disabilities.
Detective Garda Tomas O’Connor said Collins set up the financial system used by the charity and effectively stole €535,000 through fraudulent accounting practices.
Donal McCarthy, defence barrister, said it was Collins himself who brought his own fraud to the attention of his employer in the end. He had been using the money to pay for a chronic gambling problem.
Mr McCarthy BL said Collins continued to address his problems through Gamblers Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. The barrister said the accused was working at three part-time jobs in Dublin and paying back the charity at a rate of €300 to €500 a month.
Mr McCarthy submitted that while it would take 100 years to repay the debt and that there was no reality in Collins ever repaying it in full, he would not be able to pay anything if he was jailed, as he would lose his jobs.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: “I accept everything council on your behalf has said. But you used your skill and position to defraud them of half a million euro. The sum involved was staggering.
“In mitigation of the offence, it would not have come to notice unless and until you disclosed it. You co-operated with the guards.”
The judge said the plea of guilty to 70 sample charges was significant, as such cases were often difficult to prosecute.
The charges range from March 2007 to March 2010. The 70 all relate to theft. They refer to amounts ranging from about €200 to about €3,000 on different dates in that time period.
The first charge, for instance, stated that, on Mar 20, 2007, at the Bank of Ireland, St Patrick’s Bridge, Cork, Collins stole €250, the property of the Cork Centre for Independent Living.
The judge also noted that the defendant had undergone such extensive counselling that he was at the stage where he was of potential benefit as a counsellor to others.
“But I cannot ignore the enormity of the sum involved. I have to impose a custodial sentence. I impose three years with the final 18 months suspended given the mitigating factors I have seen in this case,” Judge Ó Donnabháin said.
While the sample charges amounted to a total of €188,000, Det Gda O’Connor said the offences related to fraud of €535,000.
However, €30,000 of that was covertly returned before the investigation began.
Since then he repaid €7,000 leaving an outstanding balance and loss to the charity of over €498,000, as of yesterday.
The Cork Centre for Independent Living was opened in 1996 by people with disabilities.