herald

Friday 21 September 2018

Shop manager stole more than €315k to feed gambling habit

Wayne Johnston
Wayne Johnston

A supermarket manager who stole more than €315,000 from his employer to feed his gambling habit put more than 100 jobs at risk, a court has heard.

Wayne Johnston put hundreds of thousands of euro through his Paddy Power online betting account to feed his addiction.

Johnston appeared before Letterkenny Circuit Court, in Co Donegal, charged with theft at the Costcutter supermarket in Ballybofey.

The father-of-two had worked with the supermarket since 2006. However, when he was put in charge of all purchasing and staff in 2009, the trail of thefts began.

They started with small sums but soon mounted up, and in one year he stole more than €300,000.

Details of exactly how Johnston, who is originally from Thurles, Co Tipperary, stole the money from his employer were not given during the court case.

The court was told that the thefts had a huge personal effect on the owner of the business, Michael Doherty.

Mr Doherty said he learned that money can be replaced but nothing will ever take away the stress and worry, as well as the sleepless nights and mental torture, that he and his family had suffered.

He added that without the support of suppliers and partners, the jobs of 100 people would have been in danger.

"I don't think I'll ever be the same person again. I lost a part of me," he said.

Johnston told how Mr Doherty was more than simply an employer to him and that they had developed a friendship outside of work.

"When the gambling took over I was guilty and embarrassed for taking Michael's money," he said.

Ashamed

He added that he never thought of the bigger picture and how it might put the jobs of 100 people in jeopardy.

"I'm so sorry for what happened. I was very embarrassed and ashamed, and I didn't realise I could have closed doors to his business," said Johnston.

"I knew I was taking the money but did not realise the damage I was doing to him, or his mother and father."

Johnston said he is now getting treatment for his gambling addiction and his wife, Michelle, is in charge of all the family's finances.

Mrs Johnston gave evidence saying that the family now speaks openly about his addiction and if he is ever feeling vulnerable.

The accused said he now has plans to try to pay back the money to Mr Doherty.

He said that he is prepared to pay €600 each month for the next 30 years as a way of compensating his former employer.

Johnston, who is in his 30s, is currently working for a courier company and his employer is aware of the court case.

Colm Smyth, for Johnston, suggested to Judge John Aylmer to impose a heavy suspended sentence over the head of his client to ensure that he does not re-offend and that he attempts to pay back the stolen cash.

Judge Aylmer said he would like to hear the opinion of Mr Doherty about the proposed compensation plan offer.

The judge adjourned the case until May 4.

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