Woman awaits sentencing for stealing €98,000 from GAA club

A MIDDLE-AGED woman who stole €98,316 when she was treasurer of a Co Limerick GAA club was last night in jail awaiting sentence.

Patricia Carroll was told that she will have to give binding guarantees that the proceeds of the sale of a house will be handed over to the club when the case resumes for sentencing tomorrow at Limerick Circuit Court.

Carroll, 49, of Chapel Street, Kilfinane, pleaded guilty to taking various sums totalling €98,316 from the local Blackrock GAA club between October 2005 and March 2007 when she was club treasurer.

The stolen money was made up of cash totalling €63,543 — the proceeds of the club’s weekly lotto — and another €34,773 through forged cheques drawn on the club’s bank accounts.

As a result of the thefts, the club was now struggling financially.

Defence counsel Mark Nicholas, BL, said Carroll, a single mother whose family had strong GAA roots, would now be seen as a thief and robber.

Carroll, the court heard, lived in the family home which was considered to be her’s although it is still in her mother’s name.

Efforts to sell the house to raise compensation have so far failed and it is still on the market.

Det Garda Tim Hartnett, of Bruff Garda Station said at the club’s AGM in December 2006, Carroll was re-elected as club treasurer.

At the meeting, she produced statements indicating the club was in the black to the amount of €37,625 and all outstanding debts had been paid in full.

The club lotto showed a profit of €17,517 and a further sum of €76,000 had been given to the club by the National Lottery.

Carroll stopped attending committee meetings and the weekly lotto draw but insisted that club money be dropped into her house for her to lodge.

A man who sanded the playing pitch contacted the club saying he was owed €7,780.

Carroll’s statement to the club indicated that this money had been paid and an inquiry got under way.

Subsequently, Limerick greyhound track contacted club committee member, Carmel Murphy, seeking €3,200 from a greyhound night the club held in the Markets Field. It emerged a cheque had bounced.

Carroll’s statement to the club also showed this as paid.

Ms Murphy discovered the club’s bank accounts were in the red when they were led to believe by Carroll they were significantly in the black.

The club’s solicitor advised that the gardaí should be alerted.

After her arrest on November 20, 2007, Carroll made admissions about the theft of cash and the cheque forgeries.

Det Garda Hartnett said Carroll, who ran into financial difficulties due to short time being introduced at her job, was surprised at the amounts she had stolen.

She had no previous convictions and came from a highly respected family, the court heard.

The thefts, the garda said, were a matter of great concern and worry to the club, which operated on a shoestring.

Det Garda Hartnett said: “Financially, the club is struggling big time as a result of this.”

Mr Nicholas said Carroll’s reputation was in tatters. He said: “She did dishonest, disgraceful things.”

She had agreed to sell her house and use money from the sale to compensate the club. However, one deal fell through and the house was still up for sale.

To show her bona fides, Mr Nicholas said Carroll was prepared for a legal charge to be placed on the house in favour of the GAA club.

Mr Nicholas said the house was still in Carroll’s mother’s name, but this could be dealt with.

Adjourning sentencing until tomorrow, Judge Moran said he will need binding guarantees that proceeds from a sale will be made over to the club and he remanded Carroll in custody.

He said: “I am not making any promise that I am not going to impose a prison sentence. But there is no question the money is to be refunded to the club if there is to be any alternative to a long prison sentence.”

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