A mother of four stole €127,000 from her employers over a five-year period, forcing the family-owned supermarket to
reduce staff hours and cut wages.
Caroline Carr (36) of Naomh Conaill Close, Glenties admitted stealing the money electronically using prepaid credit cards from Melly’s Supermarket in Glenties between 2008 and 2013.
Carr, who worked in the accounts department of the Costcutters store, transferred the sums of money over to transaction cards and then moved the money into her bank account.
She made the transactions on a terminal in the shop and then removed any evidence of the payments.
Carr received 240 hours community service in lieu of a two-year prison sentence at Donegal Circuit Criminal Court.
The Melly family had to take personal loans and cut back the hours of staff to deal with the losses that the shop was incurring during the economic downturn.
Over €45,000 of the money has been paid back and Carr has reached an agreement with the shop owners to repay a total of €80,000 with repayments of over €330 per month.
The thefts were detected after the owner's investigated why they had been losing so much money. The thefts range from €255 in one financial quarter to over €11,000 in two separate financial quarters. Car pleaded guilty to 18 different counts of theft between 2008 to 2013.
Garda Gallagher told the court that the system in the shop enabled customers to hand over cash and the sum would be transferred to transaction cards. Carr was transferring the money to four cards she owned but was not placing money in the till and was taking the receipts that the terminal produced, removing any evidence of the transactions.
Darren Melly contacted gardaí in April 2013 over a €350 transaction on an O2 electronic top-up card as he suspected the money was stolen.
After an application for information under the Data Protection Act, gardaí identified Carr as a suspect.
Carr had worked in the shop for eight years, initially on the floor of the supermarket before moving into the accounts department.
Garda Gallagher said that Carr was topping up her own cards and the shop was not aware the transactions were taking place and that they were losing money.
The investigation resulted in a search of Carr’s home and the discovery of the cards and bank records.
Garda Gallagher said Carr had stolen a total of €127,657.98 using two 3V prepaid cards and two O2 cards.
She lodged over €56,000 from the cards into her bank account and transferred almost €20,000 of that into her credit union account.
Garda Gallagher said some of the money was going direct to her bank account while some was spent directly from the cards on online purchases.
On arrest, Carr admitted the hundreds of transactions. She told gardaí that thefts started when she was short of money one day and then became a habit. She said the thefts got out of control and she did not realise how much she had taken.
State counsel, Patricia McLaughlin (BL), told the court that after Carr was dismissed, the Melly family experienced a backlash from the local community as people did notknow the full facts of the situation and there was a belief that she had been unfairly dismissed.
An unfair dismissal claim was launched, but the court heard this was mainly due to pressure from Carr’s husband, who at that stage did not know about the thefts. The action was withdrawn as soon Carr told her husband she had been stealing from the shop.
Garda Gallagher said he was satisfied that her husband was unaware of the thefts.
Darren Melly told the court that the thefts had a huge impact on him and his family. He said the missing money caused “massive mistrust” between him and one of his brothers, because they were the ones that handled the money.
“We knew something was wrong,” he said. “We tried to tighten up. Hours were cut, wages were cut, Ms Carr’s wages were cut.”
Defence counsel, Peter Nolan, said Carr's parents and her family had been very shocked by the thefts. He said the family “had been at breaking point but had come together to support each other”.
He said Carr, a mother of children aged six months, nine, ten and 15 years, felt relief when she admitted the thefts.
He said at the time the thefts started she had been under strain of looking after two children under the age of one and later one of the children was diagnosed with autism.
Carr did not display signs of major spending. Money was spent on “pointless dresses and shoes which ended up in a closet or charity shop,” he said.
Mr Nolan said a psychiatric report detected evidence of obsessive and compulsive behaviour.
Carr told the court she was sorry for what she did. “I just want to say to Darren and all the Mellys, I am sorry for what I done. It should never have happened. And to my husband and my family, I have put them through a lot and I am very sorry for that.”
Judge O’Hagan said the thefts were a very serious crime with a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.
“That kind of money to a small grocery shop in the middle of a small town like Glenties is massive,” he said.
He said Carr will have to suffer the shame and guilt for the rest of her life. The judge said Mr Melly had been very Christian in the agreement reached over repayment.
He said it was a most difficult case because of the amount of money involved, but, as he was happy that Carr is very unlikely to reoffend, he imposed 240 hours community service in lieu of two years in prison.