Belfast Telegraph

I don't have a brother any more, says woman robbed of £300k by gambler

By Paul Higgins

A woman who reported her brother to police after he stole more than £300,000 from her company to fund a gambling addiction has said she no longer has a brother.

Mark Neill was jailed for the thefts from the firm at which he had been employed by his sister, Karen McAvoy.

Handing down a 30-month sentence to 36-year-old "pathological gambler" Neill at Craigavon Crown Court, Judge Gordon Kerr QC quoted from his sister's victim impact report in which she declared: "As far as I'm concerned, I don't have a brother any more."

The judge said Neill, who was working as general manager in her publishing company when he stole the money, was described by his sister as a "manipulative individual" who warned her the business was failing and duped her into thinking it needed a "cash injection".

In order to raise the money, Ms McAvoy remortgaged her family home and on foot of her brother's warning about her business, "we stopped annual holidays, cut our lifestyle right down and took the children out of day care, but there was no reason to do that."

He was later found to have been placing bets online, losing up to £10,000 in a single transaction.

The judge heard previously that Neill, from Graham Court in Moira, swindled a total of £320,898 from his sister's firm over a two-year period and had gambled all of it away before he confessed to what he had done in February last year.

He later pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by abusing the position he held at Karen McAvoy Publishing Ltd, two counts of false accounting and a charge of theft relating to £268,346, which all occurred on dates between January 1, 2011 and February 18 last year.

Sentencing Neill and ordering him to spend 15 months in jail and 15 months on supervised licence, Judge Kerr said Ms McAvoy's business had "generated considerable profit" but that her brother had abused the trust she placed in him to feed his gambling addiction.

"This is not a case of an institution being defrauded, it was his own sister," said Judge Kerr, adding that she has been left with debts that cannot be retrieved.

He told Neill that had it not been for the "significant mitigating factors" of his guilty plea, genuine remorse and evidence that he has not just been attending Gamblers Anonymous, but that he is actively promoting its help and assisting other gambling addicts, he would have faced a six-year term.

Belfast Telegraph


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