A Donegal shopkeeper who used forged bank guarantees to receive more than €24,000 of cigarettes from tobacco manufacturers has escaped a prison sentence.
Wade McGinley (47) of Trimacool, Buncrana was sentenced to 240 hours of community service at Letterkenny Circuit Court after pleading guilty to the offences which occurred between June 1st 2009 and October 14th of the same year.
Judge John O'Hagan handed down a three-year jail sentence but substituted it with community service after a probation report found McGinley was unlikely to offend again.
McGinley had been ordered to pay back €6,000 to John Player and Sons and JTI (also known as Gallagher’s) companies at a previous sitting of the court.
Judge O’Hagan said he was taking into account the fact that the sum of money had been paid and restitution had been made to the two companies.
He also had to consider that while McGinley had one previous conviction, it was a minor matter and was “a very long time ago”.
An aggravating factor was that the crime had been very cleverly planned.
The judge said the case took a substantial amount of detective work from Detective Garda Mark Doherty to expose the fraud.
He said McGinley, who is married with children, admitted the offences straight away and had been very cooperative with gardaí.
The case had been adjourned to allow for a probation report. The court had previously heard that McGinley had two contracts with the two tobacco
companies but had difficulty in making payments to both companies.
The companies sent reps to his shop with bank guarantee forms.
His bank, AIB, refused to authorise the guarantees and wrote to inform him of the decision.
McGinley scanned the AIB bank stamp and forged the signature of the branch manager.
AIB Fraud Prevention Group contacted gardaí in 2011 concerning the two transactions.
The sum of money involved for JTI was more than €8,000 while John Players was for more €16,000.
McGinley was interviewed by gardaí in 2011 and admitted forging the signature of the bank manager.
The court heard that McGinley said he would pay back the money owed but
Players were repaid just over €4,000 of the €16,000 and JTI were not repaid anything.
Judge O’Hagan told the previous hearing that if McGinley repaid €3,000 each to both companies by
December he would consider a community service order.