Travel agent may avoid jail over charity theft

A travel agent convicted of stealing from a charity he founded for terminally ill children may avoid a prison sentence if he can repay the stolen money.

Travel agent may avoid jail over charity theft

John, also known as Con, Murphy, aged 66, of Church Rd, Killiney, Dublin, was convicted at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last week. He claimed the charity, The Children to Lapland Appeal, owed him €68,000 at the time.

The charity was founded by Murphy in 1987. It raised money from donations to bring terminally ill children on trips to see Santa in Lapland. Murphy also operated United Travel, a travel agent based in Stillorgan before it went out of business in 2012.

Murphy had pleaded not guilty to four counts of theft between June and July 2010 in the Dublin area totalling €18,643.

At a sentencing hearing yesterday, the court heard Murphy’s family was willing to raise compensation on his behalf. The Children to Lapland Appeal has since been liquidated but Judge Patrick McCartan asked that enquiries be made about other suitable charities which may need the money.

Judge McCartan said the money “will be a significant factor in enabling me to take an attitude towards him that otherwise I may not be able to take.” He said any sentence must be “a deterrent to other people in the accused’s position that such mean spirited offences will be meet with custodial imprisonment”. He said he would consider a defence application for a non-custodial sentence if the money was produced by March 16.

The court also heard Murphy was now involved with a new charity, The Make It Happen Foundation, which also sends terminally ill children on trips away. As part of his bail conditions he was required to tell the directors of the foundation of the theft charges. However, when gardaí made enquires with the foundation’s directors they said they were directors in name only and that Murphy effectively ran the charity.

Garda Brian Daveron told Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, he began investigating the Children to Lapland Appeal after a complaint about how it was being run.

He discovered four cheques had been written from the charity’s account and lodged in Murphy’s personal account.

During the trial Murphy’s defence counsel claimed that the charity owed him money and it was normal for money to travel back and forth between the accounts.

In mitigation Patrick Reynolds BL, defending, said his client was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2010. Murphy currently lives with his sister who is also in bad health.

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