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Woman who faked cancer and stole €2.3m from employer to fund luxury lifestyle jailed

The company McBrien worked for was almost destroyed by the theft

Julie McBrien stole almost £2m from employer and spent it on luxury lifestyle in lavish mansion

Tanya Fowles

A woman who defrauded her employer out of almost £2m (€2.36 million) can finally be identified almost six years after she was arrested.

Julie McBrien, also known as Hogg, blew the cash on a luxury lifestyle in her lavish mansion while pretending to have cancer.

Northern Mouldings, her employer in Cookstown, was almost ruined by her actions.

The firm described the five-and-a-half-year prison sentence as a punishment befitting her crimes. It added: “We hope it will act as a lesson to her and to any others who may in the future try to abuse and exploit the most basic of human traits — trust.”

At yesterday’s sentencing in Dungannon Crown Court her lawyers argued she should have lifetime anonymity. This was rejected.

A reporting ban had been imposed after McBrien threatened to self-harm if her identity was published.

Despite accepting all charges two years ago, her lawyers sought reports from numerous experts in an effort to have her sent to hospital as opposed to jail.

McBrien (47), of Screeby Road, Fivemiletown, committed 26 counts of fraud and money laundering over an eight-year period.

She was in charge of finances at Northern Mouldings, but despite a good salary, she stole cash from the company.

Forensic examination discovered lifestyle spending of just over £141,000 (€166,000); general expenditure of £360,000 (€425,000); property development of £356,000 (€420,000); interior design totalling £311,000 (€367,000); spending on fashion and beauty of £231,000 (€272,000), and £145,000 (€171,000) on jewellery.

McBrien made false bank statements and forged the signature of a former employee after failing to remove his name from the bank mandate. She then forged a bank mandate making her solely in charge of finances, countersigning cheques to herself and creating false invoices.

She lied to a company director that she had a rare form of cancer. It was exactly the same condition a close relative of the director had endured, and he went out of his way to provide support.

After arrest she admitted the offences, claiming money was spent “just on holidays — there’s nothing to show for it”.

She blamed the company accountants for not doing their job properly. “If they had, I wouldn’t be here,” she brazenly claimed.

Judge Brian Sherrard QC noted the company placed total trust in her, which was badly abused.

“While dedicated colleagues faced huge financial impact, you enjoyed your luxury lifestyle,” he said.

“You were given preferential treatment by a director after claiming to have cancer. You were the author of that lie and benefited from it.

“You had no consideration for anyone affected by you. This money was simply dissipated by you and there was no argument for need. Your offending was born out of avarice.”

He also noted all psychiatric treatment was sought privately and not through her GP.

While diagnosed as having a severe depressive episode, McBrien declined intervention. There was never any indication she was unfit for trial.

A report obtained by the prosecution found McBrien “has the ability to manipulate for her own ends and all assessments are based on her own assertions”.

Judge Sherrard dismissed the suggestion of imposing a hospital order.

Having received clarification, he said he was confident Hydebank Women’s Prison could properly manage McBrien’s condition, and imposed a prison sentence of five-and-a-half-years.

In a statement, Northern Mouldings said: “As a long-serving member of staff who had gained a significant position of trust, Julie (Hogg) McBrien was involved in a major sophisticated and sustained fraud against the company over an eight-year period.

“We are led to believe that this was one of the most sophisticated fraud cases ever witnessed by the police and Public Prosecution Service.

“Her actions and the subsequent long-running legal process has been exceptionally difficult for the business, the shareholders, our loyal staff and all their families.

“Her efforts to delay the legal process and the attainment of reporting restrictions which has kept her name from the public domain until this point only served to exacerbate the distress caused to all her victims.

“Separately, we will continue to pursue legal actions against Julie (Hogg) McBrien to retrieve the funds the company was defrauded and we are confident we will be successful in that regard.”

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