A financial controller for Chopped Ireland Limited who stole more than €82,000 from the health food chain will be sentenced later this year.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Mairead Latimer (35) of Corr Castle, Howth, Co Dublin, pleaded guilty to four counts of stealing money from Chopped Limited between December 2016 and July 2018. She has no previous convictions.
Det Garda Declan O’Connell told Edward Doocey BL, prosecuting, that Latimer was the financial controller at the company and, over the above-mentioned time, stole money in four different ways from Chopped. He said she made fictitious payments to ghost employees, with over €43,000 going into her father’s account.
Det Garda O’Connell said Latimer authorised inflated wage payments to herself of over €12,000 that had not been approved by the directors. She took over €22,000 from a Chopped shop on Grafton Street and in Lucan and also authorised over €3,000 in the form of increased pension payments to her own pension plan.
The court heard that, at present, Latimer has paid back €73,546 to Chopped Limited with a further €7,852 outstanding.
In July 2018, one of the two company directors was looking at staff rotas and staff wage payments. He saw that they were paying an employee and this employee was not rostered anywhere. He asked Latimer to investigate and said he wanted answers the following week.
The following week, Latimer confessed to making up the ghost employee and that this was the extent of her actions. She offered to work at a reduced rate until the money was paid back. Due to the breach of trust, Chopped ended her employment on August 1st, 2018. Latimer wrote a handwritten letter to the directors saying that she would pay back the money.
The court heard that Chopped began their own internal investigation and asked Latimer for her bank statements. She gave them bank statements, which turned out to be fake. Managers from two Chopped shops gave statements that outlined that on a number of occasions, Latimer told them there was a problem with the usual secure cash pick up and that she would be collecting the money.
In August 2018, Latimer was arrested after she attended a Garda interview by appointment. She was co-operative, answered questions and made admissions to gardaí.
Det Garda O’Connell agreed with Dominic McGinn SC, defending, that Latimer had paid back over 90 per cent of the money to Chopped.
The garda agreed with counsel that Latimer is now in employment elsewhere and also volunteers with a crisis text line.
Mr McGinn said his client is married and has a stepchild. Latimer’s husband is in full-time education, and she is the main breadwinner in the household. He said that her mother also suffers from Parkinson’s disease and needs to be brought in for medical appointments by her daughter.
Counsel said, “One has to recognise the seriousness of the offence due to the amount of money stolen and the breach of trust.”
He said Latimer is extremely unlikely to reoffend again in the future and asked the court to take note of the probation report.
He said Latimer has “lived her life in a law-abiding way, except for this incident”.
He asked the court to take into account how dependent Latimer’s mother is on her and her husband and stepchild. He said there is less than 10 per cent owing to the company, and there will be no loss to them once the final payment is paid.
Judge Martina Baxter said that she required more material evidence from the defence that supports their claims in the form of bank statements for Latimer and other paperwork.
She adjourned for finalisation until October 13th.
Source : The Irish Times