Kellie Walton (40) of Kilfenora Road, Kimmage, pleaded guilty to stealing €70,614 at Virgin Media Television, Westgate Business Park, Ballymount, Dublin, on an unknown date in 2019.
She also pleaded guilty to theft of €34,961 from Virgin Media at the same address also on an unknown date in 2009 and to one charge of false accounting between 2009 and 2019. She has no previous convictions and has not come to garda attention since.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Walton worked as a payroll administrator with the company since 2006 and began stealing the money in 2009. The largest amount stolen any year was over €120,000 with a total amount of €872,437 taken.
At a previous sentencing hearing in December 2021, Judge Melanie Greally said she needed time to consider the contents of various reports, letters and testimonials handed in behalf of Walton.
Passing sentence on Wednesday, Judge Greally said as a payroll administrator, Walton had a position of “very considerable responsibility” and had almost exclusive access to the payroll system.
Judge Greally said the offending was stated to have been motivated by Walton's husband lacking employment at its commencement, but noted the situation resolved after two years and Walton continued to steal using the names of former employees.
The judge said in this case there was “a degree of deception and sophistication” that Walton managed to conceal her activities for such a long period of time.
Judge Greally said the appropriate sentence for the offending was a term of four years imprisonment.
She said that in view of the fact that she was “acutely aware” that the punishment is going to be “severely punitive” to Walton's young children, she would suspended the final two years of the four year sentence on strict conditions.
During the previous sentencing hearing, Eoghan Cole BL, prosecuting, told the court that the pleas were representative of a number of sample charges of theft, one charge per year between 2009 and 2019 and that additional charges of money laundering could be taken into account.
Detective Garda John Tuttle outlined the various amounts stolen by Walton each year. He agreed with Mr Cole that each transaction typically involved less than €10,000 which Walton then transferred to either one of two bank accounts that she had control over.
Walton’s barrister told the court that her client did not use the money to fund a lavish lifestyle or buy high end cars or designer clothes but rather used it to “soften the edges of family life”.
Fiona Murphy SC said her client began stealing at a time when her partner could not work due to ill health and the family were under “financial stress”, but it then became something that “got out of control”.
“As matters progressed, she got caught in a web,” Ms Murphy said, describing how the mother-of-four lived in constant fear of being caught and was “haunted by her actions”.
“She was looking over her shoulder for 10 years,” counsel said adding that Walton lived in constant fear and anxiety and “lived half a life while waiting for the other shoe to drop”.
Ms Murphy said her client lives in rented accommodation and doesn’t have a family home to show for it. “The money was frittered away on low end dispensable items,” counsel said.
“The amounts involved are more than softening the edges,” Judge Greally said having considered that the many of the amounts taken each year equated to a significant annual salary.
“I don’t know what her family thought she was doing career wise enabling her to share the benefits of her employment so generously,” the judge continued.