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29/07/2021

Woman who stole over €20,000 from employer to fund luxury holidays and shopping trips jailed

Woman who stole over €20,000 from employer to fund luxury holidays and shopping trips jailed

A woman who stole more than €20,000 from her company social club and company credit card and spent the money on luxury holidays and shopping trips has been sentenced to six months' imprisonment.

Nicola Henry (32) was the secretary of the Johnson & Johnson social club when she wrote 37 cheques to herself, forging her colleagues' signatures.

She received a total of €17,326 from 27 of these cheques, which she spent on luxury holidays to Australia, Sri Lanka and Dubai, as well as restaurants, shopping trips and beauty treatments, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard. The other 10 cheques bounced as there wasn't enough money in the account.

Henry, an office manager with the Tallaght-based company, was suspended when the thefts came to light. She then went on to spend a further €3,233 using the company credit card, Detective Garda Kevin Bowen told the court.

After she was charged, Henry “buried her head in the sand” and missed several court appearances, leading to warrants being issued for her arrest, defence counsel said. She was arrested in November last year and placed in custody.

Sentencing her on Monday, Judge Pauline Codd said she accepted Henry's thefts were a result of her ongoing depression and was a “method of escapism in dealing with that”.  She took into account a psychological report which found Henry was at a low risk of re-offending and would benefit from therapy.

The judge handed down a two-year sentence but suspended the final 18 months on a number of conditions. She backdated it to last November, when Henry went into custody.

Henry, of Carrownegh, Kiltoom, Co Roscommon, pleaded guilty to three counts of theft and two counts of attempted theft from Johnson & Johnson social club and company between April 2014 and September 2015. She also pleaded guilty to two counts of making a false instrument between those dates.

A further 65 counts on the indictment were taken into consideration. Henry has no previous convictions.

Det Gda Bowen told Gerardine Small BL, prosecuting, that Henry joined the company in 2011 as an accounts assistant and went on to have several different roles within the company, including office manager. She joined the company social club in 2012 and became secretary of the club.

The court heard employees who were members of the social club paid a contribution from their salaries every month for social gatherings, with the company also regularly adding funds. 

Although Henry was on the club committee and had a cheque book, she did not have authorisation to sign cheques on behalf of the club. As a result, she forged the signatures of two of her colleagues who were authorised to do this and cashed cheques which she made out to herself.

Ten of the 37 cheques - with a value of €35,340 - bounced as there wasn't enough money in the account. Henry's offending came to light when the bank contacted the company controller about the bounced cheques in August 2015.

She was immediately suspended and her company credit card was blocked. However, the company noticed in November of that year that further sums of money had been spent using the blocked card.

It emerged the bank had contacted Henry about the card being blocked and she authorised them to unblock it before continuing to spend company money, the court heard.

Det Gda Bowen said Henry did not spend any money on “day-to-day expenses”. “It was all luxury items,” he said.

As well as the holidays, the court heard Henry spent money on restaurants, hairdressers, nail treatments and a shopping trip to Northern Ireland.

Defence barrister, Kieran Kelly BL, said his client had a normal upbringing, a good education and came from a good family. The court heard her mother became ill with cancer when she was a teenager and Henry took on a caring role in the home. She suffered from depression in the wake of her mother's death in 2008.

Mr Kelly said his client, who was tearful during the sentence hearing, was extremely remorseful for her actions.

He said she had taken on a number of accounting roles since the incident, but had been let go when her offending in Johnson & Johnson came to light. She was unable to repay any of the money she stole, he said.

Mr Kelly said his client is a “very private person”.

“She has buried her head in the sand very much in relation to this matter,” he said. “She is a person who should follow through on counselling available to her.”

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