No jail for ex-swimmer who robbed phones

Richard Higgins
Richard Higgins

A former competitive swimmer and Vodafone employee who exploited a flaw in the company ordering system to send mobile phones to himself has been given a suspended sentence.

Richard Higgins (26) succumbed to temptation at a time in his life when he was spending thousands of euro a month on cocaine, the court heard

Higgins, of Prospect Meadows, Rathfarnham, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to stealing mobile phones and one Dell Latitude laptop from Vodafone Ireland at Mountainview, Dublin 18 on dates between 2011 and 2013.

He has one previous conviction for speeding.

Judge Karen O'Connor said there would be “little value” in jailing Higgins.

She noted the impressive testimonials from family who described him as “a beautiful person” who had carried out “enormous good deeds” including saving someone from drowning in a lake and performing CPR on another person.

She said he had made some very poor decisions due to his drug addiction and had breached the trust of his former employer while exploiting “an honours system”.

Higgins wiped away tears as Judge O'Connor told him to “put this behind you and get on with your life.” She suspended an 18 month sentence on condition he keeps the peace.

Detective Garda David Connolly told Elva Duffy BL, prosecuting, that in May 2013 a logistics company making deliveries for Vodafone reported an unusual amount of test orders to a residential address.

Vodafone became aware that Higgins, who worked at the company from 2011 to February 2013 when his contract ended, lived at that address and the company reported the matter to gardaí.

Det Gda Connolly said gardaí went to the address and seized six phones as well as packaging and boxes for some phones he had sold online.

He told gardaí that he had worked in the testing department and realised that the data related to test orders was not recorded or tracked so he began to send phones to himself. The phones involved were mainly Samsung Galaxy phones and iPhones.

Det Gda Connolly agreed with Ronan Kennedy BL, defending, that Higgins had initially been working in a contract role but was made permanent. His contract was then terminated during his probationary period as he was becoming unreliable.

Det Gda Connolly said Higgins told him he was relieved to be caught so it could stop. He said Higgins had said he was spending thousands per month on cocaine.

He said Higgins wished he was in a position to recompense Vodafone and had brought €2,000 to court as a token gesture.

Mr Kennedy said Higgins had a tragic background which included the early death of his mother and the death of his best friend at 17-years-old. At this time he began using cocaine.

By the time he finished working in Vodafone he was using cocaine between Thursday and Sunday each week and was coming under pressure to repay drug debts as well as keep up appearances.

Mr Kennedy said Higgins had taken steps to address his cocaine misuse and was now drug free.

Counsel said he was previously an accomplished swimmer who had represented Ireland in international championships.