A Montessori School owner must sell her home after defrauding a building society out of almost €50,000 by using a chequebook for a closed Scout Association of Ireland bank account.
Emer Kelly (aged 42) of Kerrymount Rise, Foxrock told gardaí she was "asset rich and cash poor" and said she was planning to pay everyone back..
"I know what I did was wrong. I knew the account was closed. Most people have been refunded," she said, adding that she was "just playing catch-up".
Kelly pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to seven counts of fraud in 2005 at EBS branches in south Dublin, and at Musgrave’s Cash and Carry, Sallynoggin Road, Dun Laoghaire.
She had no previous convictions and Judge Tony Hunt was told that the maximum penalty for the crime is five years in prison.
Detective Sergeant Brian O’Keeffe told Ms Karen O’Connor BL, prosecuting, that the mother-of-one had been the treasurer of her local scout association for ten years and opened an EBS account in her own name on March 23, 2005 in Stillorgan.
She lodged 13 cheques from her local association chequebook into this account, varying in amounts from €700 to €40,300. She also made 13 withdrawals from the account, varying in the forms of cheques to people and companies to whom she owed rent and other expenses
Det. Sgt O’Keeffe said a branch manager contacted gardaí as none of the cheques cleared due to the account being closed weeks earlier, which the Scout Association of Ireland had informed Kelly about in writing.
She used a different name but was identified on CCTV footage when she used two cheques from the closed account to buy goods in Musgrave’s for her school in June 2005.
Det. Sgt O’Keeffe said Kelly had begun her Montessori School business with her mother, who took care of the finances. However, her mother died in 2002 and by September 2004 the monthly turnover had gone down from €42,000 to €17,000 in what had been a 90-pupil school.
Kelly also invested a €100,000 inheritance from her father in her school and was trying to keep things afloat.
"She said she was ‘asset rich and cash poor’ and didn’t want to let employees go," Det. Sgt O’Keeffe said .
None of the defrauded money had been paid back.
Mr Tony McGillicuddy BL, defending, said Kelly was the sole carer of her teenage son with whom she lived.
He said her sister drowned in the Grand Canal in December 2002, the same year her mother died.
Mr McGillicuddy said the Dublin County Sherriff was seeking repayment from her on tax matters around the time of her offence. "She took an action that’s driven her into the ground. She’s in her own prison," he said.
He said Kelly was from "a good working background". Her father had been a pilot in Aer Lingus and her mother worked in the Revenue Commissioners.
Mr Gillicuddy said Kelly trained as an accountant, leaving just before qualifying but working in the area for years. She retrained as a Montessori teacher and her business really took off with the boom in the late 90s.
However, he said, the death of her mother, who was the school’s "minister for finance", and of her sister, coupled with health matters, "took the legs from under her".
Mr Gillicuddy said Kelly was currently selling the home she part-inherited from her mother to pay off her debts and Judge Hunt adjourned sentencing until after the sale.