A woman has been jailed for two years after she pleaded guilty to stealing more than €325,000 from a Cork credit union over a five-year period.
Leona Daly (37) admitted a total of 167 theft and fraud offences between 2011 and 2016 when she was working at Knocknaheeny-Hollyhill Branch of Gurranebraher Credit Union.
The mother of two pleaded guilty to 105 counts of theft of sums ranging from €500 to €11,000 contrary to Section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001.
Daly also pleaded guilty to a further 62 charges of false accounting, contrary to Section 10 of the same act where it was alleged she furnished false information in relation to accounts to make a gain.
At Cork Circuit Criminal Court, Det Garda Maura O'Riordan of the Garda Economic Crime Investigation Unit in Cork said Daly first started working at the credit union in 2005.
She later began working in as an administrator, which gave her a higher level of access to accounts than she previously had. it was in this role she stole the money.
Discrepancies in accounts started to come light in 2016 and management at the credit union reported the matter to the Garda.
Det Garda O’Riordan said Daly attended the Bridewell Garda station in Cork in a voluntary capacity and made full admissions.
Daly, who was dismissed from her job in October 2016, was formally charged on July 23rd when her solicitor indicated she would plead guilty to all charges.
Det Garda O’Riordan said Daly handed in €2,000 to the court by way of compensation earlier this week while a further €9,000 was handed over on Friday. Daly proposed to repay €400 a week, she said.
Defence barrister, Niamh Stewart BL said her client had made full voluntary admissions to gardai about her activities and was prepared to pay back €1,600 a month over a period of five years.Ms Stewart said Daly suffes from “chronic depression” as she pleaded for leniency for her client.
Daly's husband, David Lynch, whom the court heard had no knowledge of his wife's theft, gave an undertaking to the court to sell his car and to make the monthly payments on his wife's behalf.
No explanation was given as to where the funds were spent or the motivation for the theft.
Gurranebraher Credit Union said in a statement it had suffered “reputational damage” arising out of the theft.
Judge Sean O’Donnabhain said he accepted Mr Lynch was “completely innocent” and not privy to his wife’s actions but his financial compensation proposals were unrealistic and “not deliverable.”
He described Daly’s breach of trust as being “phenomenal” but acknowledged her guilty plea was of massive benefit to the State as fraud is difficult to prove and trials of this nature can be “complicated and difficult.”
Judge O’Donnabhain said that it merited a custodial sentence and the headline sentence should be five years, but taking everything into account he would give her a three year discount and sentenced her to two years in jail.