A Co Down mother who stole over €200,000 in cash and cheques while she was senior accountant at a Dublin hotel has received a fully suspended sentence.
Jeanette Murray (44) took over €137,200 in cash and €67,600 in cheques and bank drafts from Brooks Hotel, Dublin over five years.
She spent the cash on personal items, but did not lodge the cheques. These were later returned to the hotel after the offending came to light.
Murray, a mother-of-two of Knockdarragh, Newry pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 12 sample charges of theft between September 2003 and November 2008. She has no previous convictions.
Judge Melanie Greally sentenced Murray to three and a half years imprisonment, but suspended the entirety of the sentence on condition that she keep the peace and be of good behaviour for that period and that she transfer €70,000 to the victim in this case.
Judge Greally also ordered that Murray complete 240 hours of community service in the next 12 months in lieu of two years’ imprisonment.
At an earlier sentence hearing, Sergeant Paul O’Hanlon told Kerida Naidoo SC, prosecuting, that another accountant had noticed irregularities on the hotel’s system in 2009, while Murray was on maternity leave.
Sgt O’Hanlon said Murray’s thefts were “straightforward” and that on particular days she would steal the cash and cheques from the hotel’s safe at close of business. She deleted and falsified information on the hotel’s system and gave incorrect records to auditors each year to hide her thefts.
A victim impact report, which was completed by Brooks’ general manager, revealed that the offending came to light when hotels were suffering in the economic downturn.
Sgt O’Hanlon agreed with Bernard Condon SC, defending, that the hotel owners were aware of Murray’s children and did not wish to see “innocent lives affected by the behaviour of their parent”.
The sergeant said he was not aware the hotel had sued the auditors.
Mr Condon submitted to Judge Greally that his client’s family had raised €70,000 “through great efforts” to be transferred to the hotel owners.
He handed up testimonials and asked the judge to consider that the first offence happened 15 years ago and that there had been a delay in getting the case to court. He asked the judge to consider his client’s early plea, which had avoided a lengthy and difficult trial.
He also submitted that Murray was a different person than the one who made a “bad decision” 15 years ago to put her “hand into the till”.
Judge Greally said the aggravating factors in the case were the large value of cash and cheques stolen and the prolonged period of offending. She described the matter as “a simple case of somebody who had a position of trust and acted on dishonest impulses to take money she had free access to”.
She said the mitigating factors were Murray’s guilty plea, her co-operation, her remorse, the money she had raised as compensation, the generous attitude of the injured party and the hardship her young children would suffer if she was separated from them.