A credit controller with a severe gambling problem has been jailed for three years after stealing almost â‚¬1.7 million from the credit union where he worked.
Paul Oâ€™Brien, 51, a financial controller at Finglas Credit Union, took out bogus loans and stole cheques to fund his addiction and to pay his mortgage and credit card bills.
In some cases he organised fradulent loans for himself in order to make repayments on other loans.
Garda Lisa Sheehan told Dublin circuit criminal court that â‚¬1.67 million was stolen over a seven-year period, in the form of 215 fake loans and 13 stolen cheques. However, as he used some of the cash from the loans to repay pre-existing ones, the total net loss to the credit union was â‚¬453,300.
Oâ€™Brien, of Oâ€™Valley Park Road, Finglas, pleaded guilty to sample charges including nine counts of stealing cash and one of falsifying a loan application.
The married father of three had no previous convictions and documents were provided to the court to confirm that he had a severe addiction, including one from Gamblers Anonymous. His lawyers had argued that his addiction was so serious that he could not stop himself from stealing the money.
He has since sought help and has not come to any further garda attention.
Judge Martin Nolan said that Oâ€™Brien was a very good family man and unlikely to re-offend, but that the extent of his offending meant he must be jailed.
Ms Sheehan told Fergal Foley BL, prosecuting, that it was noted by staff during an audit in May 2012 that many of the existing loans exceeded the ratio of 4:1 between loan amount and shares held. The loans were investigated and the credit union became aware that Oâ€™Brien had made repayments on them.
A team of accountants was called in two months later to carry out further investigations. After his home was searched, Oâ€™Brien voluntarily visited the station, where he was subsequently interviewed 22 times. He made a full confession and was charged in January 2013.
Oâ€™Brien said that all the stolen money was used to fund his gambling addiction.
â€œThere was nothing to suggest that he made any personal gain,â€ said Ms Sheehan. She agreed with Luigi Rea BL, defending, that his clientâ€™s gambling problem had â€œbrought him to a dark place in his lifeâ€.
A psychological report concluded that his addiction has been in remission for three years.
Mr Rea told Judge Nolan that his client accepted that he should have dealt with his problem and that he should not have stolen the money.