Financial controller given suspended sentence

 

AN AUSTRALIAN woman who defrauded her lover’s company of €77,000 after she was appointed as financial controller has been given a suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Cheryl Nielsen (42) lodged some stolen cheques directly to her account and cashed others through an unwitting boutique where she was spending €20,000 a year on luxury goods.

Nielsen, Townree House, Oughterard, Co Galway, pleaded guilty to five sample counts of stealing cheques that were the property of Ancove Enterprises Ltd and were drawn on customer accounts between July and September 2007.

Customers affected included An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the HSE, Woodies DIY, Tesco and Supervalu. Bank of Ireland is currently at a loss of €68,189 and AIB is at a loss of €9,162.

Judge Tony Hunt imposed a four-year sentence which he suspended for four years on condition that Nielsen handed over her pension and savings account as compensation within four months. The court also heard that she had jewellery worth €25,000, some of which was bought with the stolen money. She has agreed to hand it over as compensation but gardaí expect to only get 40 per cent of its value, about €10,000.

Judge Hunt called it an “unsophisticated crime” and said Nielsen had “squandered the money on the high life”. The judge accepted she was under financial pressure at the time and said she was unlikely to reoffend, but warned that she would go to jail if she did.

Garda Ronan Cloughar told Gerardine Small, prosecuting, that the original director of recycling company Ancove, Robert McAuley, employed Nielsen as a sales person in 2003. After they became romantically involved, she took over financial control of the company.

Garda Cloughar said another company called PHS bought Ancove and Nielsen stayed on in a consultancy position during the takeover. PHS installed its own trained credit accountant, Catherine Morgan.

Suspicions were aroused when customers who appeared to owe the company money said they had already sent cheques which had been cashed.

A full history of cheques was compiled and it was found that some had made their way into Nielsen’s bank account or were cashed by an unsuspecting shop owners. Nielsen was arrested in May 2008 and interviewed.

She told gardaí she was a mother of two who had come to Ireland in 2001 from Australia. She started working with Ancove and began a relationship with Mr McAuley.

She said she started buying clothes worth €20,000 each year from a favourite boutique where she also cashed some third-party cheques. Nielsen also said she had bought some jewellery.

She agreed with gardaí that she was “living the high life” and buying expensive clothes and shoes.

Garda Cloughar agreed with Róisín Lacey, defending, that the fraud was not sophisticated and that Nielsen would raise credit notes against the cheques.

Ms Lacey told Judge Hunt that Nielsen bitterly regretted her offending and accepted it was not committed to feed her children.

She said Nielsen was already a grandmother and her daughter was expecting another child.

Ms Lacey added that Nielsen was attempting to establish a new business but was not currently employed.