independent

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Tony goes all in one last time for book on his shocking downfall

Sara Gahan talks to Tony O'Reilly, jailed for stealing €1.75m from Gorey post office to fund a gambling addiction

Tony O'Reilly
Tony O'Reilly

A former Gorey Post Office worker who stole €1.75 million from An Post to fund his gambling addiction has published a memoir of his shocking downfall and reinvention as an addiction counsellor.

Tony O'Reilly, who was living in Carlow at the time, was sentenced to four years in jail in late 2012 with one year suspended.

The book 'Tony 10', which has been co-written by Sunday Independent columnist Declan Lynch, was published by Gill Books and launched last Friday.

Tony ended up losing everything because of his uncontrollable gambling addiction and it led him to increasingly devious thefts from the national postal service. Those thefts included stealing his betting money from bundles of post office cash with a pair of pliers so they would not be missed in Gorey post office, where he had risen to branch manager.

The name Tony 10 was his online-gambling name. While his first bet was just £1 in a bookies on Patrick Kluivert to score the first goal in a game against Argentina in the quarter final of the world cup in 1998, his problem began when he received a present of a €50 voucher in 2003 which introduced him to online betting.

'It was 1998 and I was just 24-years old and working in a bar,' said Tony. 'I ended up winning £46 off the £1 bet which was a lot back then as it was half of a week's wage for me.

'After that in 2003, I was given the voucher, and my bets from 1998 until then had been relatively small.'

Tony said in order for him to use his voucher he had to set up an online account and register his credit card. 'I was in my late twenties when things started to take a turn for the worse,' he said.

He would constantly max out his credit card on bets. At the time, he was working as a clerk in a Post Office in Carlow. It was easy to apply for loans through various banks because he had a full-time job in the postal service.

'I would max out my credit card, get a loan, max out the card, get a loan, and that just went back and forth,' said Tony. 'I am still paying off those loans today.'

The buzz and the adrenaline of gambling is what got Tony hooked and his betting became progressive throughout the years.

'The biggest bet I ever put down was €40,000 on a Norwegian ladies soccer team,' said Tony. 'It sticks out because it was random.

'When you are in that gambling cycle you do not see a problem. I just kept thinking "I won" and would I place bets on whatever was available next.'

The losses outweighed the wins for Tony, but he needed to feed his gambling addiction.

'After I came out of treatment I could finally see I had a serious problem, I realised I done wrong,' said Tony.

Tony worked as Branch Manager in Gorey Post Office for two years. During this time, his Paddy Power account had a €10 million turnover.

'I had winnings of around €9 million but still owed €1.75 million,' said Tony. 'I just kept thinking, how am I going to get this money back.'

The pressure and stress caused Tony's betting to became bigger and more frequent.

'I took the €1.75 million from Gorey Post Office over a year,' said Tony. 'By December 2012 I had about €300,000 and then by June 2011 I had the majority of it.'

Auditors paid a visit to Gorey Post Office at the end of June 2011 and Tony started to panic and left for Northern Ireland. The PSNI found Tony, and he returned home to Carlow and went to the Carlow Garda Station to hand in his passport.

'They sent me to go get treatment; it was a very traumatic time,' said Tony. 'In December 2011, I was arrested at Gorey Garda Station.'

Tony was sentenced to four years in jail, with one year suspended. 'I was in jail for a total of 18 months, and did community work after it,' he said. 'I was sent to Clover Hill, then to Portlaoise Prison followed by the open prison in Arklow.'

The toughest time was leaving prison. He had to rebuild a new life and try to heal a lot of relationships he had ruined because of his gambling addiction. 'Two months after I came out of prison my mother passed away from cancer, it was tough,' he said.

During his time in prison, Tony underwent counselling and has now trained as an addiction counsellor. He said he stills feels a lot of guilt, shame, and regret and is not proud of what he did.

Tony, who now lives in Waterford, works in Dublin at Teach Mhuire as an addiction counsellor. It is a temporary emergency accommodation for people who suffer with an addiction to alcohol, drugs, and gambling. They stay for six months to a year before being reintroduced to society.

'I always say to my clients who leave prison that the recovery is the hardest part,' said Tony. 'It is hard to get your life back on track.'

He hopes the book 'Tony 10' will start a conversation in Ireland about gambling addiction. 'It is something that is not highlighted enough,' he said.

One obviously good thing that will come of 'Tony 10', is that Tony will be giving any money he receives from it to Cuan Mhuire, where he received his treatment, and Eist Cancer Support Centre in Carlow, who took care of his mother until she sadly passed away.

Tony said his advice to anyone suffering from a gambling addiction is to just ask for help.

'What stopped me was the fear, pride and my ego. There is a guilt and shame towards having a gambling addiction.

'There is no need for anyone to get to the level I was at. There are services available for people to reach out and talk.'

Tony has a website which includes plenty of contacts and information for people with an addiction. Visit www.tonyjoreilly.com He hopes to continue to help people and families. 'I want to raise awareness about gambling addiction.'

'Tony 10' is available in selected bookshops and online for €16.99.

Wexford People

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