Former Fás manager is jailed for fraud

 

A FORMER Fás assistant manager who defrauded the agency of more than €600,000 over five years has been given a four-year sentence.

James Brooke Tyrrell (54), of Church Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to nine sample counts out of “80 counts on the indictment” on dates between 2003 and 2008.

Judge Patrick McCartan handed down a four-year sentence, with the last two years suspended.

The judge said the court must send out a message to others in a position of trust that if they breach that trust they must expect the full rigour of the law to be brought to bear on them.

The court heard all the money defrauded from Fás had been spent, none of it had been repaid and the only asset Brooke Tyrrell had left was the family home.

It also heard Brooke Tyrrell was now being investigated by the Revenue Commissioners, and Fás had indicated it is going to pursue him for the return of his pension.

Breffni Gordon, defending, said his client “did not have a reserve of funds” and he had been earning €50,000 and living a lifestyle which “couldn’t be supported” on that.

He said the money had been used for going on foreign trips, house improvements and “perhaps a better car”.

He said Brooke Tyrrell had expressed remorse, offered his apologies and acknowledged the damage he had caused.

Det Garda Alan Browne of the Garda National Fraud Assessment Unit told Shane Costello, prosecuting, that Brooke Tyrrell defrauded the agency of money on 47 instances between 2003 and 2008.

Brooke Tyrrell was an assistant manager in video production at the agency when he created false tendering and invoicing processes, the court heard.

Det Garda Browne said a total of €618,852 was taken from Fás “unlawfully” while he was responsible for “putting out for tender work”, but that this money had all been spent.

He said Brooke Tyrrell awarded the tenders to companies that had been set up by himself, forged invoices and then lodged the cheques into his own bank account.

Det Garda Browne said the names of the companies were very similar to legitimate companies that had previously been awarded a number of contracts by the agency.

Brooke Tyrrell would forge invoices on notepaper similar to that of the two real companies, the court heard.

Over the course of his employment he had got to know people who worked for Fás and dealing with two companies in particular, High Wire Ltd and Yard Media Ltd, which had previously tendered and received contracts with Fás.

The fraud was discovered when a female director of Yard Media Ltd noticed the number of tenders it was being awarded had diminished significantly.

That director contacted Fás about work the company had previously tendered for unsuccessfully and was told it was awarded to a company with a very similar name called The Yard Media.

She “became worried that another company was working under the same name” and “this raised concerns”.

A statement of complaint was then issued in the latter part of 2008 and Fás launched an internal investigation.

Brooke Tyrrell was asked to account for his discrepancies and “he freely admitted” he engaged in the fraudulent activity before he was suspended from his employment.

On February 5th, 2009, the Garda fraud unit became involved and Brooke Tyrrell was brought to Dún Laoghaire Garda station for questioning.

“This type of crime is becoming all the more noticeable in recent times,” said Judge McCartan in handing down sentence.

He said Brooke Tyrrell had “a good record in life” and everyone should be given one chance.

However, that option was “not open to the court” and “felt he had to give a custodial sentence”.

INVESTIGATIONS NO OTHER CRIMINAL INQUIRIES UNDER WAY

THERE ARE no other criminal investigations under way involving Fás staff, the State training agency said last night.

The agency said it had recouped 90 per cent of the money involved in the fraud perpetrated by former assistant manager James Brooke Tyrrell through its insurers. It was also pursuing the balance. While there were no other criminal investigations under way, Fás said two human resource inquires were in train at the agency.

“The first investigation process is being carried out by an external assessor (LMCS Consultants). This process commenced in 2010 on foot of a decision by the previous Fás board following its consideration of a report from the former audit committee.

“The second investigation deals comprehensively with a number of specific staff grievances received by Fás.”

In recent years the agency has been at the centre of a number of controversies. In 2008, its director general, Rody Molloy, resigned in the middle of a controversy over spending controls at the agency.