A WOMAN who stole €16,000 from a children's credit union savings account has avoided a jail sentence on condition she repays the bulk of the money she took.
Amanda Schofield (51), a former employee of Estuary Credit Union, Glin, Co Limerick, admitted stealing €16,280 from the 'Sammy Stamps' children's account - a credit union scheme to encourage children to save with the credit union.
Ms Schofield, of Dooncaha, Tarbert, Co Kerry, pleaded guilty to stealing the money from the Estuary Credit Union, which has branches in Glin and Tarbert, on dates between January 1, 2010, and June 1, 2012.
During a previous hearing, Det Garda Pat Lee said an internal investigation was initiated on May 28, 2012, after a manager at the Credit Union noticed the balance of the account seemed low.
The court heard the mother -of-one took advantage of a "loophole" in the Sammy Savings Stamps scheme to steal sums of between €80 and €120 a week starting in early 2010.
When confronted about the missing funds, Ms Schofield admitted she had taken €16,280, despite the absence of any paper trail linking her to the crime.
In his evidence Det Garda Lee agreed with defence counsel Mark Nicholas that Ms Schofield only began stealing the money when her husband lost his job after he suffered a nervous breakdown in 2009.
At Limerick Circuit Court the 51-year-old mother was yesterday given a two-year jail sentence which was suspended for 10 years on condition she repays a balance of €12,000 to the insurers of the savings scheme.
At the sentencing hearing defence counsel Mark Nicholas told the court the Credit Union is no longer at a loss as the insurance company Liberty Insurance had paid out.
He said his client has arranged to repay Liberty Insurance and that the rate of repayment will increase if she or her husband succeeded in getting a job.
Judge Carroll Moran was told Schofield had lost her part-time job because of the publicity surrounding the case.
To date, she has paid back just over €1,700.