Sophisticated theft | 

Finance worker who stole £100k from charity who employed her jailed for six months

Ballymena mother-of-two Nuala McLaughlin confessed to one count of fraud by abusing the position of trust she held with Antrim Enterprise Agency

Antrim Court. Photo: Google

Paul Higgins

A finance officer who swindled £100,000 from the charity who employed her was handed an 18-month sentence today.

Ordering 48-year-old Nuala McLaughlin to serve six months of that sentence in jail and the rest on licence, Judge Patrick Kinney told the thief there were multiple aggravating features to her offences, including the “clear breach of trust” that her “sophisticated” fraud was perpetrated against a charity over a protracted period.

At an earlier hearing, McLaughlin, a widowed mother-of-two from Mansefield Heights in Ballymena, confessed to one count of fraud by abusing the position of trust she held with Antrim Enterprise Agency on dates between 1 July, 2013, and 31 December, 2019, when she “took a total amount of £100,656”.

In an agreed statement of facts, prosecuting counsel Michael Chambers told Antrim Crown Court how McLaughlin was the finance officer for Antrim Enterprise Agency when the registered charity reported suspected thefts to the police in December 2020.

An audit had uncovered a series of unauthorised money transfers from the charity’s account to an unidentified Nationwide account and Mr Chambers revealed that, over the six years, the transfers amounted to £100,656.

McLaughlin was initially spoken to by Antrim Enterprise Agency on 2 December and denied any wrongdoing, but the following day she emailed a charity board member to confess “she was the account holder of the Nationwide bank account identified and was responsible for the transactions identified as irregular”.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Kinney revealed that McLaughlin had “created and inputted debit descriptions on the Antrim Enterprise Agency Danske Bank account in an attempt to conceal the true details of the transfers” and also that she “created false invoices” to cover the paper trail which ultimately lead back to her.

That “sophisticated” aspect of the fraud was an aggravating feature said the judge, adding that, in mitigation, she had entered guilty pleas and shown “genuine remorse and victim insight”.

Judge Kinney said that, according to the various defence reports, there has been no real motivation put forward by the defendant save for general financial difficulties in the family home, while he accepted the assessment that McLaughlin was of low likelihood to reoffend and wasn’t a danger to the public.

He told her, however, that, given the steps she took to “perpetrate the frauds”, the length of time over which they were committed and the breach of trust against a charity, there would have to be a jail sentence.

In addition, he adjourned a Proceeds of Crime application until September.

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