Businessman pleads guilty to deception, forgery and theft

Friday 08 February 2013 20.39
Karl McCaughley pleaded guilty to 28 counts of deception, forgery and theft from Cork City Council
Karl McCaughley pleaded guilty to 28 counts of deception, forgery and theft from Cork City Council

A 40-year-old businessman will be sentenced in April after he pleaded guilty to 28 counts of deception, forgery and theft from Cork City Council, involving almost €124,000.

Karl McCaughley from Ballinspittle, Co Cork took the money when he was employed as an agent of the city council to distribute parking discs and bin tags and to collect payments from retailers.

The court heard that McCaughley was a successful businessman who set up an IT company in England before returning to Cork where he ran a chain of seven suburban grocery stores.

In 2004 he became an agent of Cork City Council distributing parking discs and bin tags and collecting payments from retailers.

However, an internal audit team at the city council raised concerns about his returns one year later.

After a PricewaterhouseCoopers auditors report in 2009, McCaughley was sacked as an agent and Cork City Council made a complaint to gardaí.

Detectives from the fraud squad based at Anglesea Street in Cork conducted what was described as a substantial investigation.

They discovered that McCaughley was siphoning off payments from the retailers and lodging them to his own account.

In some instances, the court was told, McCaughley asked retailers to make cheques payable to his own company while in other instances he altered cheques which had been made out to the council, to make them payable to himself.

Detective Garda Horgan also said three retailers bought parking discs or bin tags from McCaughley for cash at below-cost prices.

No records were kept and it was not possible to establish how much money was involved in total.

However, it amounted to between €50,000 and €60,000 in the case of one of the retailers over a two-to-three year period.

Gda Horgan said the unreliability of the records McCaughley was providing to the city council added to the complexity of the investigation.

The total loss to Cork City Council was €123,983 and none of the money has been re-paid.

Gda Horgan told the court that McCaughley had a very affluent lifestyle and liked to drive expensive cars.

He said that on the day gardaí searched McCaughley's home, a number of vehicles outside included Porche cars and Mercedes jeeps, and that McCaughley was paying between €5,000-6,000 per month to lease them.

In evidence, McCaughley said he "100% apologised" and he wanted to re-pay the council, but he accepted that no money had been repaid to date.

Judge Patrick Moran said this lack of repayment was a concern, and adjourned sentencing until 26 April.