Sunday 20 October 2019

Former Vodafone executive given three years in jail after €2m fraud at company

JAILED: Niall Barron (44).
JAILED: Niall Barron (44).

A Wexford man has been jailed for three years for his part in a fraud of nearly €2 million from Vodafone.

Niall Barron (44) was the former head of corporate financial services and at one stage the head of fraud prevention at Vodafone when he ran a fake invoicing scam.

Barron of Ard Na Cuan, Whiterock Hill, Wexford pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sample charges, under the theft and fraud act, of making a gain by deception on dates from 2003 to 2007.

Detective Garda Stephan Niland told Kerida Naidoo SC, prosecuting, that Barron's position meant he could approve contractors to do work for the company, issue purchase orders and approve invoices to be paid.

Barron ordered services, for which invoices were not provided, on behalf of a company, Tel-Q Ltd, of which he was the owner and which was registered in Vanuatu, a Pacific island tax haven. Barron approved the payment of invoices to Tel-Q for work that was never actually carried out.

Judge John Aylmer described the thefts as a "very sophisticated, premeditated and sustained breach of trust". He said it wasn't clear how much Barron had benefited personally, but that he had deprived the company of around €1.95 million.

He said he was taking a number of mitigating factors into consideration including an early plea, co-operation with the trial and Barron's previous good character.

Co-accused, Elaine McGovern and her husband David McGovern, both of Burrow Manor, Calverstown, Kilcullen, Co Kildare were also sentenced for what the court heard was their lesser role in the fraud scheme.

Ms McGovern received a suspended sentence of 18 months yesterday (Monday) after pleading guilty to two charges of possession of funds stolen from Vodafone. She admitted having €133,705 in stolen money from Vodafone on dates between January 2006 and January 2010 at the Bank of Ireland in Rathcoole, Co Kildare.

She also admitted having €806, 336 in stolen funds at the PTSB Bank in Dundrum, Co Dublin between February 2002 and August 2004.

Tara Burns SC, defending, said that her client was pleading guilty on the basis of her being reckless about the funds rather than intentional behaviour.

She said that the mother of three came from an extremely good family background and was active in fundraising for local charities.

Her partner David McGovern was previously jailed for nine months for his part after he pleaded guilty to three charges of unlawfully submitting incorrect VAT invoices for the company Consul-Tech for amounts €62,315, €71,390 and €68,002 on dates between March 2006 and January 2007.

He also admitted dishonestly inducing Vodafone to pay €165,447 to Consul-Tech. The company was registered in his wife's name but McGovern told gardai that his wife had no involvement in the false invoicing to Vodafone.

Between January 2003 and 2007 Consul-Tech submitted 56 different invoices to Vodafone for a total of €165,447.

The court heard that Vodafone has aggressively pursued civil cases against the McGoverns and that there are also proceedings against Barron.

Judge Aylmer said that there was no real risk of David McGovern re-offending and that the case had taken a very high toll on him and his family. He said he considered him to be a first offender.

Wexford People

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