A grandmother 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, of 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 its customers’ accounts on dates between July and September 2007.
Customers affected included Bord Iascaigh Mhara, The Health Service Executive, Woodies DIY, Tesco, and Supervalu. Bank of Ireland is currently at a loss of €68,189 and AIB at a loss of €9,162.
Judge Tony Hunt imposed a four year sentence which he suspended for four years on condition Nielsen hands over the proceeds of her pension and savings account as compensation within four months.
The court also heard she has €25,000 worth of jewelery, some of which was bought with the stolen money. She has agreed to hand it all over as compensation but the gardai expect to only get 40 per cent of its value, about €10,000.
Judge Hunt called it a “unsophisticated crime” and said Nielsen had “squandered the money on the high-life.” He accepted she was under financial pressure at the time and said she is unlikely to re-offend but warned she will go to jail if she does.
Garda Ronan Cloughar told Ms Gerardine Small BL, prosecuting, that the original director of recycling company Ancove, Mr Robert McAuley, employed Nielsen as a sales person in 2003 and after they became romantically involved she took over the 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 their own trained credit accountant, Catherine Morgan, and 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 the bank account of Nielsen or were cashed by an unsuspecting shop owner. Nielsen was arrested in May 2008 and interviewed.
Nielsen told gardai that she was a mother of two who had come to Ireland in 2001. She started working with Ancove and began a relationship with Mr McAuley.
She said she started buying €20,000 worth of clothes each year from a favourite boutique where she also cashed some third party cheques. She said she also bought some jewellery with the money.
She agreed with gardai that she was “living the high life” and buying expensive clothes and shoes.
Garda Cloughar agreed with defence counsel, Ms Roisin Lacey BL, that the fraud was not terribly sophisticated and that Nielsen would raise credit notes against the amounts of the cheques.
Ms Lacey told Judge Hunt that Nielsen bitterly regrets 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.
She said that Nielsen was attempting to establish a new business but is not currently employed.