Finance officer swiped over £100k
This is the fraudster jailed for 18 months over a “sophisticated” scam to swindle £100,000 from the charity where she had worked for more than 20 years.
Finance officer Nuala McLaughlin (48) was jailed last week after pleading guilty to defrauding the organisation between 2013 and 2019.
This is the first time the calculating conwoman has been pictured in the media since she was sentenced for pocketing £100,656 of the body’s cash.
McLaughlin, a widowed mother-of-two from Mansefield Heights in Portglenone, confessed to one count of fraud by abuse of position during a hearing at Antrim Crown Court.
Prosecutor Michael Chambers said the defendant was the finance officer for the Antrim Enterprise Agency (AEA) when it reported suspected thefts to the police in December 2020.
An earlier audit uncovered a series of unauthorised transfers from the charity’s account to an unidentified Nationwide account totalling £100,656 over six years.
When the AEA confronted McLaughlin on December 2, 2020, she denied any wrongdoing, the court heard.
But the following day, she emailed a member of the board to confess she was the holder of the Nationwide account and was responsible for the transactions.
Ordering McLaughlin to serve six months of her sentence in jail and the rest on licence, Judge Patrick Kinney said there were multiple aggravating features, including the “clear breach of trust” and the fact her “sophisticated” fraud was carried out over a protracted period.
Judge Kinney added that McLaughlin had fabricated AEA transactions in an attempt to conceal the truth of the transfers.
The defendant also created false invoices to cover the paper trail that would ultimately lead back to her.
Judge Kinney noted McLaughlin had entered guilty pleas and shown “genuine remorse and victim insight”.
However, he also pointed out there had been no real explanation put forward by the defendant, save for general financial difficulties in the family home.
While he accepted she had a low likelihood of reoffending and was not a danger to the public, Judge Kinney said a jail sentence was inevitable given the steps she took to carry out the frauds, the length of time over which they were committed and the breach of trust against a charity.
A proceeds of crime application in the matter has been scheduled for September.
The AEA is a registered charity which provides help and advice to budding businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Its website describes it as “a leading enterprise centre in the borough of Antrim and Newtownabbey” and a “go-to business advice centre (that)supports businesses every step of the way”.
McLaughlin had been employed at the agency for decades and was their longest-serving employee, with the charity thanking her for 21 years of service in October 2016 with a post on Facebook.
In the post, the organisation said: “Nuala McLaughlin, our finance and development officer, has celebrated 21 years with the enterprise centre.
“She started as a receptionist and has built her way up the organisation.”
McLaughlin regularly held and attended workshops and networking events on behalf of the agency to provide assistance to people starting their own businesses.
She was also regularly pictured at awards ceremonies and community events, as well as helping out with various aspects of the charity’s work, including helping school pupils with interview skills.