A former Anglo Irish Bank clerk has been given a suspended sentence for defrauding his employer of €200,000 while the bank was being nationalised.
Gordon O’Brien (aged 43) took the money from Anglo’s Limerick branch as the bank was calling in its loan accounts during the Government takeover three years ago.
It was later noticed during an audit by Anglo’s successor, Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).
O’Brien had set the money aside “as a war chest” because he was going to lose his job in the wind-up of the bank.
His counsel said his wife was also going to lose her job with another bank and his son had just been diagnosed with autism and faced having his education grant cut.
O’Brien was described as “a decent man who made a catastrophic mistake”.
At Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today Judge Patricia Ryan sentenced O’Brien to four years in prison, but suspended it full for three years.
She noted he was under considerable financial pressure at the time due to his son’s condition and the likelihood he would lose his job.
The Limerick man committed the fraud by transferring clients’ money into several bank accounts he controlled. He would then take money from internal Anglo accounts and put it into the clients’ accounts to make them appear in order.
O’Brien of Springfield, Dooradoyle pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to six counts of dishonestly using a computer with the intention of making gain or causing loss at Anglo Irish Bank, Henry Street, Limerick.
The offences occurred over a ten month period between September 2010 and June 2011.
O’Brien made full admissions when confronted by bank officials and all the money was returned soon after.
Detective Garda Stephen Niland of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation told prosecuting counsel Paul Carroll BL that there was a lengthy delay in IBRC making a complaint to gardaí because of what was going on in the bank at the time.
O’Brien’s fraud revolved around Anglo’s operations in Limerick which involved loaning money to clients for the leasing of equipment, usually tractors and plant machinery.
In 2009 Anglo was being taken over by the State and was in the process of calling in these loans. Customers were settling their accounts using cheques and cash lodgements.
O’Brien used a computer to transfer money from these accounts into seven accounts he controlled in various financial institutions. Two of these accounts belonged to his sister and cousin. O’Brien told them he needed to use their accounts for share dealing.
He would then transfer money from internal Anglo “suspense accounts” into the client accounts to make them appear normal. Gardaí estimated that around 30 client accounts were affected.
The fraud was noticed by IBRC auditors and O’Brien admitted everything during a meeting with senior management in August 2011. He also told staff he had hidden nearly €30,000 in stolen cash in a safe deposit box in the bank.
The money was repaid within several weeks. Most of it was still on deposit in O’Brien’s Anglo accounts when the fraud was noticed.
Defence counsel Dean Kelly BL said O’Brien and his wife were going to lose their jobs because of the banking crisis and wanted to put money aside for this eventuality. They also needed money for their autistic son’s education because their government grant was also going to be cut off.
“He sought to amass a war chest, wrongly, but for the right reasons,” counsel said, adding that O’Brien lived an ordinary life without “expensive golf trips clothes and cars.”
O’Brien’s counsel told Judge Ryan that his client had refused a solicitor when interviewed by gardaí. He contrasted this with “some of his employers” who used the services of solicitors during other garda investigations.
Counsel said O’Brien is currently working in the UK but has abided by his bail conditions. He said his client was in constant phone contact with gardaí, helping them with their investigations, and this wasn’t a case where he “had to be collected from the steps of a plane at Dublin Airport.”
IBRC had initially suspected there were others involved and that O’Brien couldn’t have carried out the fraud alone. Counsel said O’Brien assured them he was the only one involved and that his sister and cousin had no knowledge.
Mr Kelly said the father of two was very ashamed and embarrassed and that he had tried to hand himself into gardaí before they had even received a formal complaint from the bank.