Former Freemason Murphy jailed after stealing £120k from his lodge
A former senior member of the Freemasons was jailed for a year after he admitted stealing more than £120,000 from his own lodge.
Bankrupt accountant William Stanley Murphy (63), of Broomhill Park, Magheralin, Co Down, was told by a judge at Belfast Crown Court that he would spend a further year on supervised licence after release from prison.
In May this year, the defendant had pleaded not guilty to a total of 15 charges when he appeared at the same court.
But three months later, Murphy was re-arraigned on all charges and pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position.
He also entered guilty pleas to 14 counts of stealing a total of £121,504 from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim, which previously had its headquarters in Rosemary Street in Belfast.
The fraud by abuse of position took place over a five year period dating back a decade.
Prosecution barrister Kate McKay told the court that in September 2014 a member of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim made a complaint to police that Murphy had abused his position of trust while lodge treasurer and stole over £121,000.
Records showed that from June 2006 to March 2011, a total of 14 cheques were used by Murphy to defraud the lodge.
The court was told that the fraud came to light in 2012 when the Antrim lodge changed auditors who conducted a financial review.
The cheques used in the fraud needed two signatures, but for ease of business, the court heard they were already pre-signed by another member of the lodge. Murphy would then sign his name on the cheque and use them to make fraudulent payments.
Ms McKay said that one cheque for over £24,000 was paid by Murphy to HM Revenue and Customs to settle a civil tax liability to Dunmurray-based Nulife Engineering.
She told Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland that Murphy was a company secretary of Nulife but held no shares within the firm.
The judge heard that HMRC still hold the money and it was "at their discretion'' whether or not to pay it back to the lodge.
Murphy had limited assets, said the prosecutor, who was bankrupted in October 2014 and lived in a one-bedroom flat in Magheralin valued at £28,000.
The court heard that during the course of two police interviews, Murphy denied carrying out the fraud, citing his "mental health issues" and could not recall the matters.
However, he later admitted to police that he "made a mistake" in using a lodge cheque to settle the £24,000 tax bill.
Defence barrister Patrick Taggart told the court that Murphy was estranged from his wife, had "only one friend in life", lived alone in a one bedroom flat in Magheralin was now an "ostracised individual" because of his offending.
Judge McFarland said it was "clearly a breach of trust case and there was some degree of sophistication, however, when you stand back and look at it, the fraud was always going to be detected and the trail would lead back to your door".
The Belfast Recorder sentenced Murphy two years concurrent on all 15 charges, stating that half would be spent in custody with the remainder spent on licence. The judge also made a confiscation order for £28,000 and gave Murphy six months to pay the money back to the lodge.