Tax official stole €19k of VRT fines 'to repay his own loans'
A REVENUE official, responsible for collecting fines from motorists who hadn't paid vehicle registration tax (VRT), stole nearly €20,000 from the State over the course of a year.
John, also known as Anthony, Kelly (41), had "over-extended himself" financially during the Celtic Tiger era and needed the money to repay loans.
His counsel said he also needed money for medical procedures to help himself and his wife conceive.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard motorists caught by gardai without Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) had their cars seized and would have to meet with Mr Kelly, an executive officer with The Revenue, to pay a fine and get their car back. Mr Kelly would then pocket the fine for himself.
The fine for not having VRT is 10pc of the value of the car. Mr Kelly targeted high-end cars such as Porches and BMWs and stole a total of €19,350.
He will be sentenced on July 17 next after Judge Desmond Hogan indicated he is unlikely to jail Kelly if he continues to repay the stolen money.
Kelly of Baron's Hall Apartments, Balbriggan, Co Dublin pleaded guilty to three counts of theft from the Revenue Commissioners at New Customs House, Dublin. Two similar counts were taken into consideration. The offences took place between March 2005 and January 2006.
Detective Garda Stephen Niland told prosecuting counsel Garret Baker BL that motorists were stopped in the Dublin area and directed towards Kelly to get their cars back and pay the fine.
The owner of a BMW jeep paid over €7,000, the owner of a Porsche paid €5,650 and the owner of BMW 325 paid €2,300. The Revenue did not receive any of these fines.
A year after the jeep driver was fined, he was stopped again in Wexford by Revenue Officials for not having VRT. The driver told officials he had already been fined for the offence and Revenue began an investigation when it found no record of this.
Shortly afterwards Kelly paid over the original €7,000 fine in the form of two cheques and cash. The investigation then discovered the other missing fines.
Kelly denied stealing the money but identified his signature on several documents.
Defence counsel Michael Lynn SC said Kelly has now been fired from his position but was in line for a promotion before the thefts came to light. He said he now has another job.
Judge Hogan asked if his new employer knew about these offences and Kelly responded that he had put The Revenue down as a reference when he applied.
Mr Lynn said his client was "under considerable financial stress" at the time.
"He was over-stretching himself. I'm not condoning it but he wasn't the only one during that period."
Counsel said he was also paying for science to help him and his wife have children.
The judge remarked that Kelly had "succumbed to temptation" but that he has paid back most of the money. "I'm going to see if he can come up with the balance," he said before remanding him on bail.