Belfast Telegraph

Credit Union official jailed for stealing £92k from clients confessed to a victim who had visited her mum’s grave

By George Jackson

A former assistant manageress of the Dungiven Credit Union who used her position to steal £92,000 from client accounts has been jailed for eight months.

Mother-of-five Geraldine O'Kane, from Birren Road in Dungiven, pleaded guilty to committing 13 theft charges and one charge of false accounting.

The 47-year-old defendant, who committed the 14 offences between February 2013 and April 2015, wept in the dock as she was sentenced by Judge Gordon Kerr QC.

O'Kane's offending was uncovered after she approached one of the women that she had stolen from.

O'Kane confessed to the woman after the victim had visited her mother's grave in the grounds of Dungiven chapel.

After the encounter on April 28 last year, the woman reported the defendant's confession to officers in the Dungiven Credit Union branch.

They carried out an immediate internal investigation, which showed discrepancies in multiple accounts.

The credit union reported its findings to the PSNI and when O'Kane was arrested and interviewed by detectives on May 20 of last year in Limavady police station, accompanied by her solicitor, she made full and immediate admissions.

The court was told that O'Kane, who had worked in the Dungiven Credit Union office for more than 20 years, started stealing the money shortly after she was promoted to assistant manageress.

It began after her husband's once successful dry-lining company collapsed because of the recession, with debts of several hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Her defence barrister Dean Mooney said O'Kane managed to obtain a £15,000 loan from the credit union for day-to-day living expenses.

But once her financial resources had been exhausted, she started her offending, which involved her targeting so-called dormant accounts which showed little activity in terms of lodgements or withdrawals.

"The transactions were bound to lead back to her. She left an obvious trail back to herself," Mr Mooney said.

The defence barrister said O'Kane was both ashamed and remorseful.

Such was the ignominy she had felt since her offending was discovered, that she had not ventured back into Dungiven town, he added.

Judge Kerr said the offending represented a very serious breach of trust, which ordinarily carried with it an immediate custodial sentence of up to two years.

He said that in determining the appropriate sentence he had to take into consideration the amount involved and the period of O'Kane's offending, as well as the impact which her offending had on the public and on the public's confidence in the credit union.

He said O'Kane breached her position of trust by monitoring multiple partially dormant accounts from which she stole the money.

"Credit unions are an important public resource upon which the public places a high degree of trust," he said.

"Offending such as this must have had an effect on the public's trust in such institutions.

"There has been no recovery of the money and the loss has been borne by the credit union."

Judge Kerr said O'Kane's offending had tragic consequences for her and for her family.

He said in mitigation he also took into consideration the psychological issues she now suffers from as a result of the pressure she had been under since her offending was uncovered.

He further took into consideration the fact that O'Kane had no previous criminal convictions and the fact that she had confessed to her offending, had made full admissions and that the case had come to the court relatively promptly.

Judge Kerr said because of those factors O'Kane deserved full credit in terms of her sentencing.

But he said there were no exceptional circumstances in relation to the offending, nor in relation to O'Kane avoiding an immediate custodial sentence.

Belfast Telegraph


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