Two years jail for Gurranabraher Credit Union theft

Two years jail for Gurranabraher Credit Union theft
Leona Daly

THE former office administrator of Gurranabraher Credit Union was jailed for two years yesterday for stealing €325,000 in a phenomenal breach of trust carried out over several years.

Leona Daly, aged 36, with an address at 4 Meadow Avenue, The Meadows, Knocknaheeny, was sentenced yesterday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on 167 charges.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said that the proposal to pay back €400 a week after handing back €10,000 in cash was entirely unrealistic and that a jail sentence had to be imposed. The judge said Gurranabraher Credit Union could pursue her through civil proceedings for compensation if it chose to do so.

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. She 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.

It was confirmed yesterday that no account holders were at a loss and that the loss was borne by the credit union.

Detective Garda Maura O’Riordan of the Garda Economic Crime Investigation Unit said Daly first started working at the credit union in 2005 and became administrator which gave her a higher level of access to accounts than she previously had and it was in this role she stole the money.

Discrepancies in accounts started to come to light in 2016 and management at the credit union reported the matter to gardaí, who launched an investigation which led to Daly being charged.

Det Garda O’Riordan said Daly attended the Bridewell Garda Station in Cork in a voluntary capacity after the financial irregularities at the credit union came to light and she made full admissions in the case. Daly was dismissed by Gurranabraher Credit Union in October 2016.

Det Garda O’Riordan said Daly handed in €2,000 to the court by way of compensation earlier this week while a further €8,000 was handed over yesterday and she proposed to repay €400 a week.

Defence barrister, Niamh Stewart BL, said Daly had made full voluntary admissions to gardaí about her activities. 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 but Ms Stewart said Daly suffered from depression as she pleaded for leniency for her client.

Gurranabraher Credit Union said in a statement it had suffered “reputational damage” arising out of the theft of the monies by their employee and it had a grave difficulty with Daly’s breach of trust.

Judge Sean O’Donnabhain said he fully 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 acknowledged that Mr Lynch had been “through the wringer” and had suffered huge distress as a result of the criminality committed by his wife over such a prolonged period of time.

He described Daly’s breach of trust as being “phenomenal”, particularly given that credit unions are local financial institutions set up for the benefit of its members in the community. He acknowledged that Daly’s guilty plea in the case was of massive benefit to the State as fraud is difficult to prove and trials of this nature can be “complicated and difficult.” But Judge O’Donnabhain said a custodial sentence had to be imposed following a breach of trust of this magnitude and he sentenced her to two years in prison.

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