herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Garda 'disgraced' after carrying out ATM scam

Gardai (Stock image)
Gardai (Stock image)

A garda stands to lose his job and has been “disgraced” after carrying out a scam on ATMs in which he defrauded a bank out of €450, a court heard.

Garda Brendan Phillips (34) avoided a prison sentence but was fined €2,000 after he admitted theft and fraud charges.

Dublin District Court was told that Phillips had become a “pariah in his community” because of his actions and had since moved to the UK.

Fining him, Judge Bryan Smyth said the accused had made a “serious error of judgement” that would have “catastrophic consequences” for his career.

Garda Phillips who is from Sligo and with a recent address at Charnwood Green, Clonsilla, pleaded guilty to three deception charges and two counts of attempted deception in connection with AIB ATM withdrawals in March and April 2013.

Phillips had initially pleaded not guilty to the charges and the non-jury trial had been due to take place over the course of two days.

However, he changed his plea to guilty today.

The court heard the withdrawals and attempted withdrawals were made by Phillips on his personal account and his joint account with his wife.

The incidents happened at locations in Clonsilla, Clonee and Blanchardstown.

Det Superintendent JJ Keane told Ronan Kennedy BL, prosecuting, that during the incidents the defendant used his bank card to withdraw €170. The requested amount was dispensed in full but Phillips took €150, leaving €20 in the dispensing tray.

After a number of minutes, the ATM would take back the remaining cash but was unable to distinguish the amount.

This created an “exceptional transaction” which resulted in the accused’s account being credited to the full amount - €170.

However, if there were more than two of these transactions within a space of time, the account was not refunded.

Phillips took €300 from his joint account in two incidents, then later took €150 from his personal account.

When the anomalies were discovered by the bank’s fraud prevention unit, Phillips was in communication with them and immediately agreed to refund the money he took.

This was refunded in full by the time the garda investigation began and the accused was co-operative, identifying himself on CCTV when it was shown to him.

Michael Bowman BL, defending said Phillips had been a member of the gardai for 12 years and had been suspended pending the outcome of the case.

He had served as a community garda in Blanchardstown, which was a position he had cherished. A former Sligo inter-county Gaelic footballer, had coached young people in Dublin and they had “looked up to him.”

He said it was a “very small amount of money” and the accused “finds himself effectively disgraced in his profession, disgraced within his community and I would submit practically unemployable,” Mr Bowman said.

Judge Smyth said it was a “serious error of judgement by Mr Phillips... which has or will have catastrophic consequences for him in relation to his career, and has done already I suspect, socially and family-wise.”

Phillips is the second garda to be prosecuted over the scam. Last December, Garda Raymond Geelan (38) was fined €3,000 after he admitted defrauding AIB out of €600.

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