Belfast Telegraph

Gambling addict stole £300k from sister's business

By Paul Higgins

A gambling addict stole more than £300,000 from his own sister after she gave him a job, believing he had overcome his problems.

After his sister offered him a chance, Mark Neill repaid her generosity by defrauding her publishing company – forcing Karen McAvoy to have to remortgage her home and even take her child out of day care to keep the business going.

The 36-year-old fraudster, from Graham Court in Moira, frittered the six-figure sum away on online gambling. He was told he will be jailed today.

As general manager at Karen McAvoy Publishing Ltd, Neill was in charge of administration and the day-to-day running of the company, and so would have had access to company accounts.

His offending came to light, prosecutor Nicola Auret told the court, on February 23 last year when Ms McAvoy contacted the police to say that her brother had admitted taking over £100,000 from her company account.

Neill had failed to show for work the previous week, and instead contacted Ms McAvoy to confess that "he had been gambling with company funds".

The lawyer told Craigavon Crown Court that Neill himself estimated he had stolen in excess of £100,000 – although it turned out to more than three times that amount. Ms Auret said Neill confessed during police interviews that he put the stolen money through the accounts as purchases from suppliers and dividend payments, but pocketed it.

And instead of receiving his usual annual salary of £25,000, Neill had paid himself an extra £9,451. The lawyer said examinations of his accounts with the Ulster Bank and Santander showed there had been a total of 165 credits coming from his sister's company account – amounting to £320,898. Neill paid some of the money back to his sister.

"Fortunately, and quite remarkably, she had managed to keep the business going," said Ms Auret, although Judge Gordon Kerr QC later revealed Ms McAvoy had to remortgage her home and take her child out of day care.

"That is his own niece or nephew," the judge said.

Neill was remanded into custody and will be sentenced today.

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