Online poker addict cheated employer of €135,000

Former part-time accountant pleads guilty to defrauding Eddie Rocket’s restaurant

John Carlos, Gort, Co Galway, leaves court yesterday. Photograph: Collins/Court

John Carlos, Gort, Co Galway, leaves court yesterday. Photograph: Collins/Court

 

A former schoolteacher who led a “remarkably ordinary life” until he became addicted to online poker in his 60s is to be sentenced later for defrauding an Eddie Rockets restaurant of €135,000.

John Carlos (74), who was also a part-time accountant, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to forging signatures on cheques, altering amounts on cheques and stealing money from his former employer, Eddie Rockets franchise owner Peter Fortune, from 2005 to 2008.

The court heard that Carlos, Gort, Co Galway, had been a highly-respected retired teacher and accountant in Bray, Co Wicklow, until he became a “hopeless and deeply addicted gambler”, ruining his family life and reputation.

Garda Nevin McCormick told Pieter Le Vert, prosecuting, that Carlos had been doing some accountancy work for Eddie Rocket’s fast food chain in the late 1990s.

Peter Fortune operated a franchise of Eddie Rocket’s in Stillorgan. He hired Carlos, whom he had known for over 30 years, as an accountant. Their business relationship began in 1999, when Mr Fortune employed Carlos as his financial controller and later auditor.

Some time in 2001 or 2002, Carlos suggested that he become a cheque signatory, and Mr Fortune agreed as he trusted him. The two were the only signatories on the company’s cheques from Permanent TSB bank. Carlos was paid €250 a week cash in hand plus the use of a phone and some cash bonuses.

In September 2008, Mr Fortune got a letter from Revenue seeking a tax audit. He realised something was wrong and asked Carlos if he was a qualified auditor. He replied that he was not and he was let go from his position.

Mr Fortune hired external auditors who discovered that a large amount of suspicious cheques had been signed between 2005 and 2008. They were shown to Mr Fortune.

He said some of the signatures purporting to be his were not genuine, while other signatures were his, but the amount on the cheque had been altered.

Carlos’s bank account showed numerous amounts going to the Paddy Power online poker website.

In April 2011, Carlos called in voluntarily to Blackrock Garda station and admitted defrauding his employer via dozens of cheques, totalling €135,000. He told gardaí that he had lost about €150,000 gambling and had run into considerable debt. He said what he had done was appalling but that he could not afford to repay the money.

The court heard he has a pension of about €220 a week, €150 of which he gives to his wife. He lives on the remaining €70.

Patrick Gageby SC said his client was a very popular teacher in Bray until 1991, when he went on to run a number of summer schools. His gambling had caused substantial fallout in his family and he was now separated from his wife.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring expressed concern that Carlos had only done “limited work” to address his addiction, even though she said he was unlikely to reoffend because of his practical circumstances. She ordered a probation report and remanded him on bail for sentencing on June 5th.