A shop manager who stole close to £150,000 to fund a gambling addiction was jailed for ten months today.
Having heard that 28-year-old Giles McAllen bet the large majority of the stolen cash at Tommy French bookmakers, Craigavon Crown Court Judge Patrick Lynch QC said he found it "astonishing these were all cash transactions" including bets totalling more than £100,000 in a single day.
"One of the employees in the shop in question said he knew that the defendant worked in the petrol station so how on earth did anyone from that company believe that this man had access to large sums of cash?" the judge asked.
Prosecution lawyer Joseph Murphy suggested that "perhaps they were turning a blind eye" and Judge Lynch said while he had no powers to do anything about Tommy French Bookmakers, "it's a matter that could be referred to the council when their licence is up for renewal."
Earlier Mr Murphy outlined to the court how McAllen had been the manager at the Centra store in Moira from June 2015 and as such "the responsibility for handling cash was the defendants."
In essence, he described how there were two safes in the shop, one for day to day cash for the tills and the other for the takings which needed two keys, McAllen's and one held by G4S to be used when they were making secure collections.
That second key however, had been left at the shop.
Ownership of the business was transferred and on 23 July last year, an operations manager "noticed an anomaly of £600," said Mr Murphy but he added that further investigations revealed no money had been lodged that month at all and that according to sale figures, "about £144,000 was unaccounted for."
McAllen was spoken to and he claimed the missing cash was in the second safe but that he had forgotten his key.
"He said he had left his key at home and offered excuses as to why he couldn't get it but that he would bring it the next day and that there was nothing to worry about," said the lawyer.
Come the next day however, McAllen made more excuses why he couldn't come to the shop and when the second safe was eventually opened, it was devoid of any cash but eventually, McAllen's father told the senior managers "all of the money had gone to the bookies."
Arrested and interviewed McAllen, from Derramore Park in Magherafelt, "made full and frank admissions" about stealing the cash which he used to place bets of anywhere between £100 to £4,000, pleading guilty at a later stage to a single count of the theft of £149,480 from his employers at the Centra shop in Moira on dates between 1 April and 29 July last year.
Mr Murphy told the court that both the staff and owner at Tommy French bookmakers were spoken to and that betting slips revealed how a massive £629,846 had gone through the betting shop between stakes and wins, including stakes of more than £100,000 in a single day.
He added however that when McAllen kept betting, "he simply looses that money."
Defence barrister Michael Tierney said it was clear that McAllen is "genuinely remorseful and entirely ashamed" of his actions which were always going to be uncovered given there was no sophistication to the thefts.
"There is no question that it's a serious case and an example of some who gets caught in a vicious circle and dragged into the depths of despair as he keeps taking money to try to claw his way back," said the lawyer.
He conceded the breach of trust aspect of the case is an aggravating factor but highlighted that other similar factors were absent such as the lack of sophistication and that the prosecution agreed McAllen did not come into possession of the second key "in a nefarious way."
Jailing McAllen for ten months and ordering him to spend the same period on supervised licence, Judge Lynch said it was a "shame that you should have wasted" his career.
Highlighting again his "astonishment" at the huge amount of large bets being made at a single bookmakers, the judge said "it seems from what the manager said that you reinvested, or gambled, or threw away, large sums of money in their direction" so much so that they profited by around £123,000.
"At astonishes me that you were placing large sums of money in cash even though they knew you were a worker at a local shop rather than some money millionaire who simply happened to stop off in Moira from time to time to place bets," said Judge Lynch.
He added however that "whatever the shortcomings of the bookmakers, at the end of the day the responsibility for the criminality lies at your hands and no one else's."
The judge told McAllen that given the seriousness of the case and the clear breach of trust, "a term of imprisonment is inevitable."