Gambling addict spared jail after £70,000 theft from employer

Gerard Martin McGrath stole the money from Drinks Inc over a nine-month period
Gerard Martin McGrath stole the money from Drinks Inc over a nine-month period

A sales representative who stole over £70,000 from his employer over a nine-month period wept in court after he was spared jail.

Gerard Martin McGrath, who stole the money from Drinks Inc to fund a gambling addiction, believed ‘one big win’ would be enough to pay back the money he took from the company.

McGrath, 51, from Greenfield Park in Armagh, was handed a 16-month sentence, which was suspended for three years, after he admitted stealing £70,880 from the drinks company.

He has raised £10,000 which will be handed to Drinks Inc, but has been unable to secure any additional funding.

Belfast Crown Court heard that in his role as a sales representative, one of McGrath’s areas of responsibility was to collect cash payments from customers.

The father of two’s offending emerged last May when the financial controller of Drinks Inc was informed that McGrath’s cash balance owing to the company was in deficit.

Prosecuting barrister Mark Farrell said that on May 11, McGrath was contacted about the financial shortfall. The following day McGrath sent an email to his employers which said: “Sorry guys, can’t cope any more. The end.”

Concerned for his wellbeing, colleagues called to McGrath’s home, where he admitted taking the cash due to his gambling habit.

Mr Farrell said McGrath was sacked last August, and when police were notified, he was arrested and gave a ‘no comment’ interview. He later admitted stealing just over £70,000 over a period from December 2015 to August 2016.

Defence barrister Paddy Taggart said both McGrath and his family have suffered as a result of his actions, adding McGrath’s daughter has significant, long-term health issues which require assistance and support from both her parents.

Noting that McGrath has raised £10,000 which will be paid to Drinks Inc Ltd, Mr Taggart said this had involved his client making “every effort possible” to secure more money, which has proved unsuccessful.

Mr Taggart also spoke of McGrath’s “excellent, unblemished work record” and clear criminal record prior to his offending, adding he was a “well respected and well liked” member of the community.

He concluded by telling the court McGrath “was glad he was caught ... it was always going to be discovered”.

Passing sentence, Judge Patricia Smyth spoke of McGrath’s breach of trust as a sales rep trusted to handle large sums of money, and the impact the theft has had on Drinks Inc.

Saying she had “no doubt” that McGrath’s gambling addiction was “the root cause of his offence”, Judge Smyth told McGrath: “I accept that you deeply regret your behaviour and the distorted thinking you would have a big win and pay the money back before it was detected.”

After reading medical reports on McGrath’s daughter, Judge Smyth spoke of the “significant impact” caused to her if her father was sent to prison.

Handing McGrath a suspended sentence, Judge Smyth said it was his daughter’s health issues – “that reason and that reason alone” – that she deems his circumstances to be exceptional.

Speaking after sentencing, a Drinks Inc representative said: “While we understand that Mr McGrath’s daughter is ill, we as a company are unhappy about a suspended sentence.

“What we are dealing with here is a serious breach of trust, and the company is continuing to deal with the ramifications of what Mr McGrath did. This unfortunately includes legal proceedings, as well as the impact it has had on other members of staff.

“While we welcome news today that £10,000 that will be paid back to us, we’re still £60,000 down – so we are very much still dealing with the fall-out from his theft.”