A now former employee of a Letterkenny based money lending company was jailed for a year after he pleaded guilty to 19 counts of theft and fraud from them at Letterkenny Circuit Court.
Seamus O’Hanlon of 25 Lonsdale, Ballybofey pleaded guilty to all charges that occurred between 2005 and 2006.
The company he stole from, Provident Personal Credit Ltd. on Pearse Road, Letterkenny believe the defendant illegally took €56,000, but he claimed it was more in the region of €33,000.
He pleaded guilty to one charge last July. On Friday he pleaded guilty to nine charges of the theft of cash totalling almost €8,000 and nine charges of using company loan application forms to create a false instrument used to defraud the firm.
Detective Garda Adrian Lyons told the court he received a complaint from Mr. John Glen of Provident Personal Credit that €56,000 had been taken from the company who specialised in providing small cash loans for people who may not qualify for loans from other lending institutions.
He said Mr. Glen’s routine check found discrepancies with nine customer accounts including some that had made repayments but were never credited and others that indicated they had received loans when they had not.
On November 7, 2006, O’Hanlon was interviewed at Ballybofey Garda Station and he admitted misappropriating up to €33,000.
In a statement he said he had worked for the company for two and half years, initially as a canvasser for new customers but after he established a large client base he was made an agent for the business and allowed to handle cash accounts.
O’Hanlon said he earned up to €900 a week with a client base of 260 clients with loans ranging from €100 to €1,000.
On a weekly basis he would have up to €10,000 passing though his hands for the firm.
He told Gardai he had a history of gambling since his early twentis and this resurfaced when he was handling large amounts of cash.
When he noticed the company had written off a large amount of “bad debt” from a number of clients who were not repaying he devised a scam where he would take out loan extensions from existing clients. He told them he would repay the money. He also created accounts with variations of clients’ names and also some with fictitious names to make new ones.
There were 37 names in total and he would use part of these bogus loans to service them to make it look like they were being repaid and he would then drink and gamble the rest.
He said when he was let go from the lending firm he was unable to keep up the fraudulent repayments and some of the people who knew about his scam then “jumped on the band wagon” to have their debts written off.
He entered counselling for his gambling and alcohol abuse. None of this money was repaid and it was deemed a “loss to the company solely”, Garda Lyons said.
The defendant’s wife, Rosaleen O’Hanlon, told the court her husband’s problem had been contained “within the family” for many years until he had access to large cash sums.
She said she had warned the manager of the company in Letterkenny about his gambling.
Two days before there wedding in 1997 she found out that he had gambled the money to pay for it, she told the court.
She then became the main bread winner while her husband became a house husband for their two children. She described him as a “very good” father.
She told the court he had stolen from her and other family members in the past and used to withdraw money from her credit card late at night without her knowing until she traced it back to him via the bank.
He also got involved in “pyramid selling”.
In an effort to stop his gambling she went to the local book makers to ask if they could help the situation but she admitted it “didn’t have a big impact”.
At times their household was left without food and heating as they were left short of money.
She paid off some of his debt but didn’t not realise the “crisis” with his employers until he asked her for a loan of €5,000, all her savings, to give his employers but they had told her about the situation and she alleged one of the managers said she would be implicated in the scam.
He has now stopped drinking and gambling, she added.
Judge John O’Hagan asked what had Seamus O’Hanlon done to repay any of the money in that last five years?
Defence barrister, Peter Nolan BL, said his 53-year-old client was unemployed and on disability allowance.
He did work in Letterkenny Urban Council until he hurt his back and was unable for physical work and he added that the likelihood of him getting office employment having received 19 theft and fraud convictions was “unlikely”.
He said Ms. O’Donnell saw the issue as a family matter and would assist.
Judge O’Hagan said “it’s not her problem”.
He sad she had shown him “amazing support” but he would have to mark the seriousness of the matter with a custodial sentence for a crime that “beggars belief”.
He stated: “She has done everything physically and humanly possible to get this held together. I couldn’t say enough in admiration for her. The man sitting next to her has done nothing except attend a few addiction meetings.”
He added that the company which was defrauded were a legitimate, licensed business who were “not to blame”.
He jailed him for 18 months, suspending the last six months of the sentence.
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