A credit union manager who stole from the organisation in an effort to help save her husband's failing business has been jailed for two years.
Anne Butterly (66) stole €875,405 over seven years by four different methods including getting authorised signatures on blank cheques, taking funds from members’ share accounts, unauthorised transactions on members’ deposit accounts and buying a vehicle for her husband using credit union funds.
Butterly, of Channel Road, Rush, Dublin, previously pleaded guilty to stealing €34,496 which was the property of Rush Credit Union.
On Monday she pleaded guilty to a further three counts of stealing a total of €59,786 on dates between January 11th, 2013 and July 31st, 2015, but her defence counsel accepted these were representative sample pleas for offending which took place from 2009 to 2016 and led to the theft of over €875,000.
Judge Martin Nolan described it as “a lamentable case”, in that Butterly had spent all her adult life working with the credit union and “by reason of her competence and enthusiasm she became the manager”.
But he said she began “stealing and thieving in a serious way” and she abused “a great trust” people had placed in her.
Judge Nolan acknowledged that the victims of the theft had been compensated by the credit union’s insurance company and that Butterly has since fully compensated them in turn.
He accepted that there was “clear mitigation” in the case including her pleas of guilty, admissions, remorse and sincere shame. “Rush is a rural area and she has been living there since these events, probably as a social pariah,” he continued.
“It goes without saying that she has serious health problems and any prison term will be much more difficult for her because of this,” Judge Nolan said. He accepted that it is highly unlikely that Butterly will re-offend and that she is no threat to society.
“Does she deserve a custodial term by reason of her culpability? To steal from your employer, from your friends and neighbours is an extremely serious matter. To say it was a huge misjudgement is an understatement,” Judge Nolan said.
He said he believed that Butterly deserves to go to prison “unfortunately” for general deterrence and to punish her. “Nobody can behave in this way and not go to prison,” Judge Nolan said before he jailed Butterly for two years.
Detective Garda Michael Owens told Aoife O’Leary BL prosecuting, that in March 2016, gardaí were contacted by Rush Credit Union after a significant degree of financial irregularities were discovered.
Butterly, who had started working with the credit union as a volunteer, was a manager at the time. She was in a trusted role and volunteers, who acted as signatures for signing cheques, had no concerns about signing blank cheques for her.
Butterly also retained deposit books for many of the members and Det Gda Owens said this meant she had “a high degree of control”.
The detective said a number of the cheques were used to pay creditors of Butterly’s husband’s company including Bord Gáis, suppliers and revenue. He was a vegetable grower who had hit difficult times, Det Gda Owens told the court.
The offending also involved the transfer of money between accounts “to fill holes” and “hide the thefts”.
Butterly was interviewed and co-operated fully with the investigation. She has no previous convictions.
Det Gda Owens said the individual members impacted by the thefts have been compensated by the credit union’s insurance company. Victim impact statements were handed into court but not read out.
Det Owens agreed with Andrew Sexton SC, defending, that Butterly’s husband’s family lands have since been sold and €865,000 has been paid back to the credit union’s insurers.
It was also accepted that Butterly has a number of health issues and her health has deteriorated since her arrest in 2020.
Mr Sexton outlined those health problems to Judge Nolan and said that since 2016, Butterly has had a number of falls which led to fractures and long periods of hospitalisation.
He said there has also been psychological impacts on her client and a medical report concluded that she is a person in need of full-time care at this point.
Mr Sexton handed in a reference from a neighbour and a reverend.
Counsel said his client instructed him to give a full apology and acknowledged that this is “a community matter”. He said it was “a clear and outrageous breach of trust and there is no getting away from that.”
He said his client’s husband’s company got into trouble and “she props it up, possibly under the fantasy that it will all be paid back”, Mr Sexton submitted.
He said the business failed and everything had to be sold. The couple have no children and are both ill at the moment.
“Seven years have gone by and she has lived in that community, 100 percent under cloud,” Mr Sexton said.
“She comes to this court with her hands up and a full apology,” he told Judge Nolan.