Wedding planner Currell who defrauded luxury Northern Ireland hotel gets suspended sentence
Nicola Currell conned Galgorm out of couples' deposits
A wedding planner who admitted defrauding a leading Northern Ireland hotel out of 11 couples' deposits for their big days has been handed a suspended prison sentence.
Nicola Currell committed the offences at the prestigious Galgorm Resort and Spa.
Yesterday, she was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for two years.
Prosecutor Amanda Brady said the hotel reported suffering a loss of £30,000.
She added that Currell was not charged with theft of the money because there was "no evidence" she benefited.
However, the defendant accepted that her actions resulted in a loss to the hotel.
Currell (40), from Coastguard Cottages in Glenarm, Co Antrim, admitted 11 charges, including that while occupying a position in which she was expected to safeguard or not to act against the interests of Galgorm Resort and Spa, she dishonestly abused that position.
She also made unauthorised transfers of funds from Galgorm Resort and Spa wedding accounts in the names of wedding couples to other wedding accounts held by Galgorm Resort and Spa.
A twelfth charge of transferring criminal property was left on the books.
The offences were committed on dates between 2008 and 2011.
Ms Brady said Currell began working at the hotel as a waitress at the age of 17 before becoming a receptionist.
She later became the senior wedding co-ordinator, and her job was to show prospective brides and grooms around.
She handled deposits when accounts were set up in the names of the couples.
Anyone wishing to hold their wedding at the hotel had to make a £1,000 deposit that was non-refundable.
According to Ms Brady, Currell "shuffled" the money around to fill gaps in accounts after £12,000 she placed in a desk drawer went missing.
When the married mother-of-six went off on maternity leave, discrepancies in accounts emerged and the matter was reported to police.
Following a disciplinary hearing, she was dismissed from her job at the hotel.
Ms Brady said the 11 charges were sample counts and that in some cases the hotel had to lodge money back into individual accounts because she had "left a hole" and, as such, the business was at a loss.
The prosecutor said that Galgorm Resort and Spa maintained the loss was "£30,000" and added: "We can't prove she personally benefited, but there was dishonesty by moving money about in a way she shouldn't have".
Defence barrister Aaron Thompson said that when the £12,000 went missing, his client was scared she would lose her job if she reported it at a time when she was looking after her sick mother.
Mr Thompson said there was confusion about the figures involved and claimed that the £30,000 could be described as an "accounting loss".
He added that the initial loss was £12,000 and that money was diverted from one account to the other, and the Galgorm also had to reimburse people.
He accepted it was a "breach of trust" and that his client had a good job at a hotel, which he said had a turnover of millions of pounds each year.
Mr Thompson told the court Currell accepted she was responsible for the losses and had borrowed £5,000 from her father to pay that amount back as a form of compensation.
Judge Desmond Marrinan said it was a strange case as the prosecution was not in a position to attribute any of the money for Currell's personal use and there were "no signs of high living".
He added it was a "rather sad" case in which Currell, who had a clear record, had worked her way up in the hotel and held a key position of trust.
He noted she had expressed her regret for "robbing Peter to pay Paul" and he accepted that remorse was genuine.
Afterwards, Currell said she did not wish to make any comment, apart from saying she was "just glad it is all over".