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Saturday 17 November 2018

Councillor who stole €200k from housing body gambled it away

Mark Dalton forged cheques. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Mark Dalton forged cheques. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

A councillor and former parliamentary assistant of the Ceann Comhairle has pleaded guilty to stealing more than €200,000 to feed a gambling addiction.

Mark Dalton (51) stole the money from a housing association of which he was a director over a five-year period.

The former Fianna Fail member and sitting county councillor, who worked as an aid for Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail at the time of the offences, admitted to 28 counts of theft and fraud at Naas District Court yesterday.

The court heard how the accused had a gambling addiction and that the fraudulently stolen money had been "wasted on the bookies".

Giving evidence, Gda John Butler said that he arrested Dalton at 9.20am yesterday and charged him with 28 separate charges of taking the money from Cill Urnai Housing Association Limited on dates from May 2009 to August 2014.

Half of the charges were brought under Section 25 of the Criminal Justice Theft and Fraud Act 2001 and the other half under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Theft and Fraud Act.

Dalton, of Whitecastle Lawns, Athy, replied to all of the charges: "I wish to plead guilty to all charges and co-operate fully as I have done from the commencement of the process."

The court heard that Dalton was a director of the Cill Urnai housing association, which had a maintenance contract with a third party. The association was partly state-funded and provided social housing.

Dalton was responsible for paying the third party, but wrote cheques from the housing association account to himself using a forged signature.

Suspicious

The fraud came to light when an accountant became suspicious of the transactions.

Gda Butler said the offences had taken place over a four- to five-year period.

Gda Butler told the court that the fraud was committed as a result of Dalton's addiction to gambling, and the presiding judge remarked that the money was "all wasted on gambling to the bookies". Defence counsel Frank Taaffe said his client was a voluntary organiser with the housing association, and that he had cooperated fully with the investigation as well as admitting full responsibility.

Free legal aid was granted and Dalton was remanded on bail, and is due to appear before Naas Circuit Court on June 19.

Dalton, who was first elected onto the Kildare County Council in 1994, had been treasurer and director of the Cill Urnai voluntary housing association which owns and provides housing on a voluntary basis.

In September 2015, a number of the association's bankers contacted the directors to raise concerns about a number of transactions and payments made from the bank account.

As a result, separate inquiries were launched by both the Director of Corporate Enforcement and gardai.

He also lost his role as parliamentary assistant to Kildare South TD Sean O Fearghail.

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