A former HSE employee picked up a sharp object and started stabbing himself in the neck when he was first questioned by gardaí about the theft of €55,000 and an attempt to steal another €107,000 from the HSE.
Detective Garda Adrian Forrest confirmed that David Cooper picked up a sharp metal envelope opener from a desk and stabbed himself in the neck with it when he was first questioned about his crimes during the summer of 2012.
Cooper, who is now 53, was admitted to hospital for a few days for psychiatric attention after this incident.
Yesterday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin imposed a two-year suspended jail sentence on Cooper for thefts and attempted thefts.
Cooper, who now lives at an apartment at 7 Southern Rd, Cork, was an employee at St Mary’s Orthopaedic Hospital in Cork.
He pleaded guilty to eight counts of theft amounting to over €55,000. The main injured party was the HSE. Two private contractors to the HSE also had money stolen from them but they have since been compensated. Cooper also admitted four attempted thefts from the HSE relating to over €107,000.
Det Garda Forrest said Cooper was in charge of payments to builders undertaking works for the HSE and he set up an account at the TSB in Ballincollig and invoiced the HSE for works that were never done by anyone and arranged for payments to himself in this new bank account.
The detective said the crime was detected because of its scale — the thefts and attempted thefts in a four-month period represented more than the total annual budget for this particular section of the HSE in Cork.
Defence barrister Sinead Behan said that the first two thefts, of over €2,000 and €4,000, suddenly jumped to a figure of over €25,000 for the third theft. She submitted that it was inevitable that the crimes would be detected.
Judge Ó Donnabháin agreed with this and said during his judgement: “He stole from his employer but because of his methodology it was inevitable — even in the health board — that it would come to attention.”
Cooper wept as the judge gave him the benefit of a two-year sentence, suspended in its entirety.
In terms of the €55,000 taken, the Ballincollig bank account was frozen and over €13,000 was recovered. A term of the suspension of the sentence was that an expected lump sum pension payment to Cooper from the HSE in the region of €30,000 is to be paid back to the HSE towards the losses.
The offences occurred between April and July last year.
Ms Behan said the defendant was under a lot of pressure at the time of the offences and had debts amounting to over €70,000 from various loans.
Cooper had one previous conviction, for a harassment or stalking offence from May 2010, for which he was given the benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act on payment of €500 to St. Vincent de Paul.
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