Belfast Telegraph

Woman who stole £600k from employers to feed gambling addiction jailed for three years

Tracey Curran at Court in Londonderry.
Tracey Curran at Court in Londonderry.

George Jackson

An office administrator who stole almost £600,000 from her employers in order to fund her on-line gambling addiction, wept after she was jailed for three years at the Crown Court in Londonderry.

Tracey Curran, 44, from Moyola Drive in the Shantallow area of the city pleaded guilty to six charges of unlawfully taking the money from the Bank Of Ireland and American Express credit card accounts belonging to her employer S3 Alliance which is based in the Skeoge Industrial Estate.

She committed the offences over a sixteen month period starting in January 2016. On one day alone she won £399,000 on the gambling website 32 Red but within forty-eight hours she lost it all on gambling.

Curran, who had been a company employee since S3 Alliance was founded by three co-directors in 2008, was also their family friend and had attended several of her employers' family functions.

She was the office administrator responsible for stock control ordering, handling general quotations as well as invoicing.

She also had the passwords for and access to the company's credit card accounts.

In total she gambled and lost £592,915 of her employers' money, offending which Judge Philip Babington said "nearly wiped out" the company.

Sunday Life's John Toner speaking with Tracey Curran
Sunday Life's John Toner speaking with Tracey Curran

The three co-directors of S3 Alliance, which is an IT supply and solutions company, had to re-mortgage their homes in order to keep the business going after Curran had stolen their money.

They discovered Curran's offending in April 2017, when the directors, who were contemplating changing their banking arrangements, asked her to complete an overview of cash projections.

In the same month Curran emailed the directors saying she wanted to meet with them to discuss urgent and confidential matters.

At the meeting, in her home and in the presence of her parents, she told her employers that she'd taken between £300,000 and £400,000 from them, put it into her PayPal account and used the money to gamble on 32 Red.

The matter was reported to the police following a full financial audit in June 2017 when Curran was arrested and interviewed by the police. She made full and frank admissions and apologised for her offending.

One of the company directors, in a victim impact statement, said "by the time that the theft was uncovered, practically all money, savings and working capital in the company had been stolen. Almost a decade of hard work building the company had been undone by these actions".

Another director, in his victim impact statement, said "a lot of hard work, long hours and extra travel enabled us to slowly trade out of the debt. We paid back suppliers and kept our employees in a job, something I am proud of".

The third company director in his victim impact statement said "in the several months immediately after the theft, whilst we were making huge personal, financial, emotional and time sacrifices, Tracey Curran actively posted on social media showing her enjoying stays in hotels, socialising with friends, attending weddings, dressing up for Halloween, making and selling cakes and stating how much fun she was having doing so.

"To see someone not having to deal with the consequences of their actions whilst we had to bear every consequence of it was extremely distressing and caused further pain".

As a result of work carried out by the directors involving contact with 32 Red and associated pressure from the Gambling Commission, S3 Alliance received a gratuitous payment from 32 Red in January 2018 in the sum of £589,585.

A consultant psychiatrist, who prepared a report on Curran for the court, stated: "Tracey Curran is presenting with a previous diagnosis of pathological gambling. The person with pathological gambling describes an intense urge to gamble which is very difficult to control or resist as they are preoccupied by thoughts or images of the act of gambling.

"They continue to gamble despite the serious consequences and impact on their daily lives and functioning they often lack insight into the extent of the problem or are in denial of same".

Curran, who gambling was done at night in the privacy of her bedroom, started gambling online in 2010. She had no previous convictions and has been assessed as presenting a low risk of re-offending.

Jailing Curran for three years, Judge Babington said it was a maximum credit case as Curran had made forthright admissions.

"It is however a very serious case as a small company and its owners were very nearly wiped out as a result of the defendant's offending. Employees would also have lost their employment", he said.

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