Ex-HSE worker given 2 years for theft and attempted theft of €170,000

Man who attempted to steal from health body given suspended jail term at Cork court

A former HSE employee has been given a two year suspended jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to the theft of and attempted theft of over €170,000 from the HSE and its suppliers.

A former HSE employee has been given a two year suspended jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to the theft of and attempted theft of over €170,000 from the HSE and its suppliers.

Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 14:35

A former HSE employee has been given a two year suspended jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to the theft of and attempted theft of over €170,000 from the HSE and its suppliers.

David Cooper (53) pleaded guilty to 12 charges relating the attempted theft of €107,000 and the theft of € 55,000 while a HSE employee at St Mary’s Orthopaedic Hospital in Cork.

Today at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, Det Garda Aidan Forrest told how Cooper made out bogus invoices from builders for work on HSE buildings which was never carried out.

He organised payments for these bogus invoices to be paid into two bank accounts but suspicions were aroused over the sums being paid out including one for over € 25,000.

Det Garda Forrest told the court that the combined sums of what Cooper attempted to steal and actually stole in June and July 2012 exceeded the section’s budget for the entire year.

Gardaí were alerted by the HSE and began an investigation and obtained orders to freeze Cooper’s bank accounts from where they recovered € 15,000.

The attempted theft of € 107,000 from the HSE was foiled but the HSE South was still at a loss of over € 42,000 as a result of the monies that Cooper had succeeded in stealing.

Cooper, whose address was given as Coolroe Meadows, Ballincollig, Co Cork, had since resigned from the HSE once the offences came to light, the court was told.

Det Garda Forrest said Cooper co-operated with gardaí and admitted the offences when confronted but he saw no prospect of Cooper ever being able to repay the outstanding money.

Defence barrister, Sinead Behan BL said that Cooper had been working with the HSE for 12 years when he was transferred from its offices at the Farm Centre to St Mary’s Orthopaedic Hospital.

He was experiencing serious family difficulties at the time and he had debts of € 70,000 and he wanted to have the transfer to St Mary’s Orthopaedic Hospital reversed, she said.

When gardaí went to arrest him, he stabbed himself in the neck with a letter opener and spent time in hospital receiving psychiatric treatment , the court heard. He later ended up living rough, it heard.

However he was anxious to repay the outstanding money and he did have a pension from the UK which would be available to him when he reaches retirement age, she said.

She said Cooper believed he would be able to repay €30,000 from that pension to the HSE and the judge could make a compensation order in relation to the outstanding money.

Judge Sean O Donnnabhain said it was a serious offence for someone to steal money from their employer and given he worked for the HSE, it was the taxpayer who was out of pocket.

However he accepted that it would have been a difficult case for the State to prove if it went to trial and Cooper had to be given credit for saving the state that expense by his guilty plea.

He said the appropriate sentence was two years but he would suspend it on condition Cooper take the necessary steps within three months to give over his pension in compensation and be of good behaviour.