A FORMER employee of Estuary Credit Union in West Limerick who stole more than €16,000 from a children’s savings scheme has been given additional time to repay the monies.
Amanda Schofield, aged 51, of Dooncaha, Tarbert pleaded guilty to stealing the money from the credit union which has branches in Glin and Tarbert, on dates between January 1, 2010 and June 1, 2012.
During a sentencing hearing, Detective Garda Pat Lee told Limerick Circuit Court an internal investigation was initiated on May 28, 2012 after a manager at the Credit Union noticed the balance of the “Sammy Stamps” account seemed very low.
That, he said, was a scheme to encourage children to save with the credit union.
A reconciliation process was carried out and a full audit, which was subsequently completed, showed there was a shortfall of more than €23,000 in the account.
The court was told the defendant made admissions to management when she was confronted despite the absence of any paper trail linking her to the theft. Det Garda Lee agreed with Michael Collins BL, prosecuting, that Ms Schofield had “made use of a system defect” to withdraw the money undetected over two years.
The court has been told that the internal processes within the credit union have been tightened up since. Following her arrest in October 2012, the defendant told gardai she had stolen “between €80 and a €120 per week” and that the total amount was €16,280.
Det Garda Lee agreed with Mark Nicholas BL, defending, that Ms Schofield only began stealing the money after her husband lost his job after he suffered a nervous breakdown in 2009.
Mr Nicholas said his client had always intended to pay back the money, when her financial circumstances improved. “It started off small but got out of control,” he said.
The court was told Ms Schofield’s bank accounts were examined as part of the investigation and Det Garda Lee confirmed the overdraft facility was being used at the time of the offences. Mr Nicholas said his client, who has since lost her job, had met with gardai voluntarily and had made full admissions in relation to the offence.
Judge Carroll Moran was told that Estuary Credit Union was insured for the losses and that the defendant is repaying the insurance company at a rate of “€10 or €15” a week.
Mr Nicholas said Ms Schofield has an offer of part-time employment and that he husband hopes to be in a position to return to work again in the near future.
He said if his client does secure employment she will be in a position to make higher contributions that she is presently making.
Judge Moran said there had been a significant breach of trust on Ms Schofield’s behalf and commented that “it will take forever” to repay the monies at the current rate.
He adjourned the matter until July 29, next for review saying “let’s see what she can raise”.
Ms Schofield was remanded on continuing bail pending the next court appearance.