Jail for liquidator (72) who failed to pass money on to employee

Sean O’Neill from Greystones, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty to theft of €28,530 in 2013

Sean ONeill (72)  pleaded guilty to theft at Dublin Circuit Court. Photograph:  Collins Courts

Sean ONeill (72) pleaded guilty to theft at Dublin Circuit Court. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A liquidator who failed to pass on money transferred into his bank account from the Department of Social Protection to the intended recipient has been jailed.

Sean O’Neill (72) of Saint Killians, Blacklion, Greystones, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to theft of €28,530 on dates between May 5th, 2013 and June 7th, 2013.

He has no previous convictions.

Judge Martin Nolan said O’Neill had a trust placed in him as a liquidator and was obliged to deal honestly. He said he was aware of O’Neill’s age but due to the breach of trust a custodial sentence could not be avoided.

He took into account in mitigation O’Neill’s guilty plea, co-operation, lack of previous convictions and the fact he had brought €18,000 to court. He noted O’Neill was under considerable pressure at the time and that due to the downturn in the economy his business had been collapsing around him.

“When a liquidator steals, a prison sentence is axiomatic or automatic,” said Judge Nolan.

He imposed a two year sentence and suspended all but the final five months. He ordered that the €18,000 brought to court be paid over to the relevant party.

Garda Miriam Redican told Diana Stuart BL, prosecuting, that an employee of a restaurant in Galway had been awarded €45,000 following a successful claim under employment law.

The restaurant later went into liquidation and O’Neill was appointed the liquidator.

‘Blameless life’

The garda confirmed that there is a scheme with the Department of Social Protection, called the insolvency payment scheme, to ensure that an employee who has been awarded compensation is not at a loss if his employer subsequently goes into liquidation.

The department transferred the €45,000 into O’Neill’s bank account and although he passed on €15,000 to the employee, he never handed over the balance.

Gardaí­ became aware of the situation in May 2018 and called to O’Neill’s home but he was not there. He contacted officers and arranged to meet them the following month.

O’Neill said during Garda interview O’Neill said that it had always been his intention “to honour” the outstanding money but he never did.

Ms Stuart said O’Neill was charged with the offence in July this year and confirmed that his plea of guilty was of “great value to the State”.

Garda Redican agreed with Luigi Rea BL, defending, that his client was caught up in the financial crash at the time and he had given himself “a short term loan”.

He said he had always been hoping to re-pay the cash but he never did.

Mr Rea said his client led “a blameless life” until these events. He said he now had €18,000 in court and intended to clear the balance.

Mr Rea handed in a number of documents, including a letter of apology from O’Neill.

He said it was “a once off fall from grace” and “it has not been repeated”.

Counsel said his client did the decent thing in pleading guilty and was now in a position to repay the money.

Mr Rea submitted that Judge Nolan should spare O’Neill “the sound of the prison gates closing behind him”.