A debt collector who “dipped into” the money he collected on behalf of his employer has pleaded guilty to eight separate theft charges at Newcastle West district court.
The court heard that James Lysaght, with an address at 39 Sharwood Estate, Newcastle West stole a total of €5,015 over a three month period in 2012 from his then employers Provident Personal Credit Ltd. The defendant was working as an agent for the company at the time with responsibility for collecting loan repayments.
He was also authorised to offer loans on which, he told the court, the company charged interest at a rate of 50%.
Inspector Brian O’Donovan told the court that some of the money had since been repaid by Mr Lysaght but that there was still a total of €3,575 outstanding.
Defending solicitor Rossa McMahon described Mr Lysaght, aged 44, as a man who had had a “somewhat disjointed” life. Mr McMahon said his client was the father of six children and that he was living in rented accommodation with his present partner and four children - two of his own and two of her’s.
In 1997, Mr Lysaght was involved as a bystander in an armed robbery where he was held up at gunpoint. This had acted as a “catalyst” for his mental health problems, including bipolar disorder, Mr McMahon explained.
In 2011, he moved back to Ireland from Britain and began working for Provident Personal Credit, a licenced money lending agency. He was also a client of the company’s.
According to the solicitor, Mr Lysaght and his partner came under a lot of financial pressure following the birth of a child, who was born six weeks premature. The pressures got to him and he began to “dip into” the money he was collecting. His intention was to pay it back over time, Mr McMahon added.
He told the court that his client made full admissions to gardai and that he was “very forthcoming” when questioned about the thefts, which took place between June and August of 2012. “It is clear that stress is a difficulty for him,” the solicitor added.
He pointed out that Mr Lysaght was in receipt of disability allowance and that he was in rent arrears to Limerick City and County Council.
Judge Alan Mitchell adjourned sentencing to allow gardai and the Probation Service to ascertain the likelihood of compensation being paid and also to establish whether any of Mr Lysaght’s clients had suffered financially as a result of his actions.
“I don’t believe that customers should be at a loss, but if there is a loss that should added to the bill,” the judge commented, adding that the loans were offered at “very high rates of interest”.
“In my view, a serious breach of trust with people who are particularly vulnerable would be an aggravating factor,” he said.