By Stephen Bourke
A 55-year-old woman has pleaded guilty to stealing over €23,000 from her former employer and producing faked bank lodgement slips to try and “cover her tracks”.
Maura Keogh of Willowbrook Lawns, Celbridge, Co Kildare, was charged with 42 counts of theft from CS Construction Spares Ltd in Clondalkin, totalling some €23,366.55, on dates between January and September 2016.
She was also charged with three counts of producing a misleading document for accounting purposes.
Keogh pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 18 sample charges of theft and the three counts of false accounting.
Garda Linda Ryan of Clondalkin Garda Station, told Tony McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, that Keogh was the accounts’ manager at the Clondalkin machinery firm until the theft was uncovered.
Keogh had volunteered to lodge cash and cheques from the machinery distributor’s trade counter for several months, saying she was “going to the bank anyway”, Garda Ryan said.
Gda Ryan said when Keogh went on holiday, another colleague discovered a discrepancy between the amount on record and the amount actually lodged on August 26, 2016.
Cheques worth €1,365 had been lodged – but €340.50 in cash had not.
The firm then made an arrangement for a “sting operation” with its bank on September 6, 2016, Gda Ryan told the court.
Bosses found the lodgement number in their record didn’t match the slip given in with the cheques, and that the cash had again not been lodged.
When they confronted her at a meeting on September 16, 2016, she admitted what she had done. Four days later she was dismissed, and a garda investigation began.
In his victim impact statement, CS Construction Spares’s owner Joseph O’Reilly, said he preferred a management style which afforded his senior staff “almost complete autonomy” in the day-to-day running of the firm.
Mr O’Reilly said Keogh had been part of a team to which significant responsibilities had been delegated.
“I had no hesitation in rewarding her financially for that,” he said. “That trust was shattered.”
He said there was a “ripple effect” which hurt morale among staff across his group of businesses.
“Who else could be trusted? What did they know?”
Mr O’Reilly said in the end he decided he had to close his Dublin premises and move the CS Construction Spares business to his head office in Dunleer, Co Louth.
Several of Keogh’s colleagues also lost their jobs as a result of the restructuring, he said.
“I completely understand the sense of betrayal that has been communicated through the victim impact statement, that’s particularly appalling when an employee has been trusted for such a long time,” Judge Melanie Greally said.
Keogh had been able to “effectively help herself to the cash component of the lodgements,” she said but “it doesn’t seem she was living the high life”.
Judge Greally said she would defer sentencing Keogh until October 12, next, and remanded her on continuing bail. She ordered a report from the Probation Service for that date.
“That will enable Ms Keogh to amass some further money to set against the outstanding deficit,” she said.
David Fleming BL, defending, said his client’s husband Brendan had been seriously ill since the late 1990s, leaving her the sole breadwinner for her family, and his full-time carer.
She was “under serious financial pressure” when she took the money, he said, “desperately trying to keep her head above water”.
“The position she was in allowed her the opportunity to make this mistake.”
“This isn’t the case where Ms Keogh took the money to fund a lifestyle which she couldn’t afford. She hated what she was doing and had always intended to pay it back,” he said. “But every time she did it the hole was getting deeper.
In character references handed up, Keogh was described as a “hardworking and selfless person” who others came to rely on, and that the theft was “completely out of character”.
She is the mother of two adult children, one a professional athlete, the other working in England. She had brought €12,700 in court to try and begin to make recompense.
“She got herself here and she wants to get herself out of it,” he said.
Mr Fleming asked that her sentence could be structured to allow her to keep working to repay the rest of what she stole.
Her current employer in Clane, Co Kildare, is not aware of the proceedings, he said.