Man admits embezzling €200,000 to feed gambling habit

A man who embezzled over €200,000 from his employer to place bets at Paddy Power bookmakers has been remanded on bail for sentence on July 29 by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

A man who embezzled over €200,000 from his employer to place bets at Paddy Power bookmakers has been remanded on bail for sentence on July 29 by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Bernard Norton, aged 30, of St. Dominic's Avenue, Tallaght, pleaded guilty to 11 sample counts of fraud, forgery and embezzlement to the total value of €204,849.29 from private loan company GE Woodchester, between August 2001 and May 2002.

Detective Garda John O’Brien from the Garda Fraud Investigations Bureau told prosecuting counsel, Ms Una Ni Raifeaetaigh BL, that as a GE Woodchester employee, Norton liaised between the company and its customers, which included private individuals and car dealers.

GE Woodchester lent money to both car dealers and private individuals to buy cars and the customers paid the company back in instalments.

Norton’s work involved delivering and collecting cheques from the customers and also filling in loan applications for potential customers.

Det. Garda O’Brien said Norton had added his name to eight of the 11 cheques he was charged with forging.

This enabled him to lodge the money into his own rather than into the company account.

His other method had been to forge applications in the name of fictitious customers and obtain loans which he again lodged into his own account.

The cheques ranged in value from €14,000 to €35,000 and were forged over a period of nine months.

Det. Garda O’Brien said that when the matter came to light after a complaint received from one of the car dealers that GE Woodchester dealt with, an internal investigation was conducted before gardaí were called and Norton readily admitted to his offences.

Ms Aileen Donnelly, BL, for Norton, said he had been a chronic gambling addict and had used all the money he obtained from his employers on placing bets at Paddy Power bookmakers, both at the shop and online on their website.

"The only party enriched by this was the bookmakers," Ms Donnelly told Judge Desmond Hogan.

She said Norton had been in internal turmoil over his fraudulent activities even before the matter came to light and had in fact been in the process of resigning when his offending came to light.

Ms Donnelly said that having admitted his offences, Norton immediately joined Gamblers Anonymous and attended a residential course there in order to try and rid himself of the addiction.

She said he had a child last year with his long-term partner and had brought €5,000 to the court as the first instalment for repaying the company.

Ms Donnelly said that while the compensation process would be difficult and "a long long process" with the newborn baby and with his savings and bank account frozen by his own bank, Norton was willing to make the full payments back.

Det. Garda O’Brien agreed with Ms Donnelly that had it not been for his chronic addiction to gambling, Norton would not have become involved in the fraud.

He also agreed that Norton was unlikely to come before the courts again.

Judge Hogan said he was adjourning the sentence hearing for July 29 to allow the Probation and Welfare Services to assess Norton.

"I am not ruling out a custodial sentence and nor am I ruling in one. I won’t make up my mind until I get the report," Judge Hogan said.

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