An assistant working at a Health Service Executive-run care facility in Co Meath, who stole money from the accounts of vulnerable residents, has been sentenced to four years in jail, with three years suspended.
Edwin Gall, 51, of Grangerath, Drogheda, Co Meath, pleaded guilty to stealing a total of €23,144 from nine residents of Barden Lodge in Julianstown, on dates between March 2016 and February 2017.
During sentencing Judge Martina Baxter said this was a case of pure greed, where Gall coldly took money from vulnerable people in the care of the State over a protracted period of time.
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Trim Circuit Court heard that Barden Lodge caters for up to 13 adult residents with intellectual disabilities providing around-the-clock care to enable them live as full a life as possible.
All the residents have their own bank accounts, which are managed by staff on their behalf, with their ATM cards kept in a central safe, a garda told the court.
Purchases or cash withdrawals on behalf of the residents are made by staff members, who are required to enter the amounts on separate expense sheets for each resident.
Gall had been able to steal money from the residents' accounts by making withdrawals and entering a lesser amount on the expense sheets.
The court heard he used the money to pay his Sky and Netflix subscriptions and buy clothes and shoes.
In June 2016, a clinical nurse manager noticed that €500 had been withdrawn from the account of one resident and after the size of the withdrawal was spoken about in the house, a €500 lodgement was made to that account.
Gall later told the manager there had been a technical issue in the bank.
When a further discrepancy was noticed in the same account eight months later, the manager noticed payments had also been made to Sky and Netflix.
After a detailed audit of all the residents' accounts was conducted, Gall admitted to a manager that he had been taking money from the accounts for about a year, but did not know why he had done so.
A garda investigation identified the amounts taken by cross-referencing the withdrawals on the accounts with CCTV footage from the ATMs used.
The court heard the HSE had refunded the residents for their losses.
Victim impact statements from some of the families of the residents highlighted the effect of the breach of trust on them and several also accused the HSE of not taking better care of their relatives' finances.
Gall's barrister said he accepted he had been guilty of serious breaches of trust and was remorseful, but had no explanation for his actions.
The lawyer added that Gall was now unemployed and on a disability payment, but had borrowed €23,000 in compensation, which he is repaying.
Judge Baxter said it was an understatement to say this was a breach of trust, as it was an exploitative and appalling breach of trust.
She said so many people have been affected, both directly and indirectly, and Gall’s actions have cast suspicion on other healthcare workers who work hard to look after residents.
In handing down sentence, Judge Baxter said she had taken into consideration Gall’s personal circumstances and medical and psychiatric reports she had received.
She said he had a good work history prior to this and also acknowledged he had suffered with his mental health.
Taking all of the matters into consideration, Judge Baxter sentenced Gall to four years in prison, with three years suspended.