Gambling addict stole £300k from sister

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A gambling addict who stole more than £300,000 from his own sister when he worked for her publishing firm has been told that he faces an “inevitable” jail sentence.

Adjourning the case to reflect overnight, Craigavon Crown Court Judge Gordon Kerr QC remanded Mark Neill into custody, warning the fraudster the only issue was how long he would go to jail for.

Neill, 36 and from Graham Court in Moira, had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by abusing the position he held at Karen McAvoy Publishing Ltd, two counts of false accounting and a charge of theft relating to £268,346 which all occurred on dates between 1 January 2011 and 18 February 2013.

Prosecuting lawyer Nicola Auret told the court while the indictment reflected how Neill stole £268,346, he had in fact stolen £320,898 by crediting money to two bank accounts and paying himself an inflated salary when he worked as general manager for his sister’s publishing firm.

Outlining the background, Ms Auret said Neill’s sister knew he was a gambling addict but believing that he had dealt with the problem, “gave him a chance” by giving him a job at her firm.

As general manager, Neill was in charge of the administration and “day to day” running of the company so would have had access to the company accounts.

His offending came to light, she told the court, on 23 February last year when Ms McAvoy contacted the police “to say that her brother - the defendant - had admitted taking over £100,000 from her company account”.

Neill had failed to show for work the previous week and instead, contacted his sister to confess that “he had been gambling with company funds,” said the lawyer, adding that Neill himself estimated he had stolen in excess of £100,000.

In fact, investigations conducted by police and an accountant revealed that was a drastic under calculation on Neill’s part as their audit of company accounts and Neill’s bank statements uncovered the huge theft.

Ms Auret said Neill had confessed to police during interviews that he put the stolen monies through the accounts as purchases from suppliers as well as dividend payments but that he had pocketed it instead.

In addition instead of receiving his usual annual salary of £25,000, Neill had paid himself an extra £9,451 and the lawyer said examinations of his accounts with the Ulster Bank and Santander showed there had been a total of 165 credits coming from his sister’s company account which amounted to the mammoth £320,898.

Ms Auret said Neill had in fact paid some of the money back and that was the reason for the lesser amount reflected in the indictment.

Turning to the aggravating and mitigating factors, the lawyer said the most obvious aggravating fact was the “gross breach of trust” represented in the fraud which had a “certain amount of planning and premeditation” and has had a “significant effect” on the victim company while in mitigation, Neill had confessed and had shown remorse.

“Fortunately and quite remarkably, she had managed to keep the business going,” said Ms Auret although as Judge Kerr revealed, Ms McAvoy had to remortgage her home and even take her child out of day care.

“That is his own niece or nephew,” the judge told defence lawyer Michael Tierney who conceded that Neill knew his sister “was put through hell because of his actions and he hangs his head in shame.”

“He is absolutely ashamed of his conduct, ashamed especially that the injured party is his sister,” said the lawyer adding that the money was used to fund an extravagant lifestyle but rather “just literally evaporated” through online gambling sites.

Remanding Neill into custody, Judge Kerr said he would sentence him on Friday.