A POST office worker pleaded guilty at Limerick Circuit Court this week to stealing nearly €100,000 in funds from elderly and disabled account holders. However, Mary Patricia Keirn (53), with an address at Vernon Crescent, Westbury, Clare, put the money back into the accounts.
She was charged with 86 counts of theft and forgery totalling €103,000 and the State accepted Ms Kerin’s guilty plea to over a dozen sample charges.
Judge Tom O’Donnell described the case as “extremely disturbing” after hearing money had been stolen from “vulnerable” customers.
Ms Kerin was a respected senior member of staff working at the GPO, Cecil Street in Limerick when she physically stole over €20,000 from post office savings accounts customers, the court was told.
The court heard she also made a series of unlawful transactions of the funds totalling over €80,000 before putting the money back within days of withdrawing it.
In the bizarre twist, Gardai told the court, apart from the €20,000 which was “physically stolen”, they could not find any evidence to show Ms Kerin had used any of the other funds for her own gain.All of the monies stolen has been repaid.
State prosecutor John O’Sullivan said Ms Kerin “had interfered with the accounts of highly vulnerable people, in terms of their age and illnesses”. The crimes were traced back to the defendant after she carried out the transactions using her staff user ID.
In one case she stole €18,300 from a woman in her eighties who was using her funds to pay for her nursing home care. Ms Keirns also stole funds from another woman who was “house bound, and who had Alzheimer’s disease”.
In another case she stole thousands of euro from a woman who managed an account to pay for her son’s “special needs” care.
She also made a series of withdrawals from the account of an elderly couple who were using the money as a pension fund.
“She knew the account holders and she knew their vulnerabilities,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
Ms Kerin said she believed she carried out the fraudulent transactions, which she also forged, because she had not been promoted at work.
Her barrister, Pat Barriscale, said Ms Kerin’s conduct was “deceiving” but “irrational”.
“She worked for 32 years for An Post. She went straight there from school. She was well regarded by her customers and staff. She’s lost all of that now. One of the main victims of her behaviour is herself,” Mr Barriscale added.
Judge O’Donnell said, “The damage it has caused to a lot of people – it was a breach of trust and the circumstances of the parties involved is very disturbing. I find this whole thing extremely disturbing,” he added.
Judge O’Donnell remanded Ms Kerin on bail for sentence on October 1.
By David Raleigh