Former credit union employee remanded in custody after stealing €400,000

Accused stole the money from 29 accounts of relatives and deceased members of Synergy Credit Union in North Cork over a seven-year period, court hears

Moira Coughlan (55), a native of Mitchelstown, but living at the Stables, Mineville, Knocknahorgan, Sallybrook, Glanmire, Co Cork, admitted a total of 592 offences. Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Moira Coughlan (55), a native of Mitchelstown, but living at the Stables, Mineville, Knocknahorgan, Sallybrook, Glanmire, Co Cork, admitted a total of 592 offences. Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

 

A former North Cork credit union employee has been remanded in custody for sentence after she pleaded guilty to stealing over €400,000 from both family member accounts and accounts of deceased members over a seven-year period.

Moira Coughlan (55), a native of Mitchelstown, but living at the Stables, Mineville, Knocknahorgan, Sallybrook, Glanmire, Co Cork, admitted a total of 592 offences relating to the theft of €407,441.94 from 29 accounts at the Synergy Credit Union in Fermoy.

Ms Coughlan was charged with 251 counts of theft contrary to Section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud offences) Act 2001, 300 counts of unlawful use of a computer and 41 counts of false accounting contrary to Sections 9 and 10 of the same act between 2009 and September 2016.

Det Sgt James O’Shea told Cork Circuit Criminal Court how Coughlan was the insurance officer at the Synergy Credit Union, which was formed from the merger of a number of local credit unions in North Cork, and is headquartered in Fermoy.

In her capacity as insurance officer, Coughlan had control over the accounts of some 25 deceased members while she also had authority from family members which gave her control over four family accounts at the credit union.

Between 2009 and September 2016, Coughlan moved €1.5 million in unlawful transactions on the family accounts and the accounts of deceased members when they were still in probate and before money was paid out from them, he said.

He said that Coughlan would withdraw money from either a family member’s account or a deceased member’s account and then when payment was due from either, she would switch money from another deceased member’s account to cover up the theft, he said.

The financial officer at Synergy, Marvin Board noticed some unusual activity where money was being withdrawn from one deceased member’s account and when he investigated it, he traced the activity back to Coughlan and Synergy then contacted auditors, Grant Thornton and notified gardaí.

Det Sgt O’Shea said that gardaí arrested Coughlan for questioning about the thefts and fraud on September 19th, 2017. She made immediate admissions and co-operated fully with gardaí before pleading guilty to the offences at the first available opportunity in May this year.

He said that Coughlan told gardaí that she simply was using the money for day-to-day living and they could find no sign of obvious wealth even though she stole €6,000 in 2009, €55,000 in 2010, €61,000 in 2011, €78,500 in 2012, €72,000 in 2013, €46,000 in 2014 and €107,000 in 2016.

Det Sgt O’Shea agreed with Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin that while the prosecution had strong evidence against Coughlan, she had, by her guilty plea, spared the State a lengthy and complex trial and he also confirmed that Coughlan had no previous convictions.

Defence barrister, Patrick O’Riordan BL pleaded for leniency for his client, informing the court that her marriage had broken down and she was now separated as a result of her criminal behaviour, while a psychiatric report showed that she had thoughts of self harm and had received psychiatric treatment.

He said that there was an element of robbing Peter to pay Paul to her offending and she had explained she was spending the money to get positive attention from others and there were several who were willing to benefit from her largesse and the money was now dissipated.

Mr O’Riordan said Coughlan was putting together proposals to repay the money including handing over a €20,000 inheritance and a €15,000 pension while she was also waiting on legal proceedings which could yield up to €200,000 but he asked for an adjournment to allow her put that package together.

But Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said even if Coughlan managed to repay all the outstanding monies, such was the breach of trust and the fact the fraud went on so long, he could not avoid imposing a custodial sentence and he remanded her in custody to February 8th to allow her come up with compensation.