Northern Ireland

Belfast men jailed over NIACRO fraud

Two Belfast men have been jailed for 15 months after they admitted stealing more than £100,000 from a public body which rehabilitates criminals.

Robert Davidson, 55, from Langtry Court and Brian Christie, 59, from Deerpark Avenue, each pleaded guilty to 102 offences of false accounting.

They also pleaded guilty to a further 23 counts of fraud by abuse of position.

The offences were on dates between October 2003 and March 2008.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC told the pair their offences were "all the worse" because of the position of trust they had been in.

A prosecuting lawyer had earlier told the court how the pair had been working for the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders (NIACRO).

Christie was working as an IT officer and Davidson, who is a former police officer, was a training services co-ordinator.

Each had authorisation to purchase and order computer parts from a sole company, Target Components, based in England.

In 2008, however, when they were both off work for a time, an outside agency was brought in and they uncovered numerous shortcomings and disparities in the records, including 78 invoices headed from NIACRO for the supposed sale and supply of computer equipment.

The lawyer told the court "NIACRO does not or should not be supplying any such goods to other businesses or persons".

The lawyer said an investigation ensued and it transpired that "fraudulent invoices may have been submitted to the NIACRO accounts department by Mr Christie and Mr Davidson for payment into the First Trust account in the name of Target I.T".

Comparing bank statements from that account, along with genuine invoice documentation from Target Components, the lawyer said that over a five-year period, "the accused had been submitting dummy invoices and effectively siphoning off, ad lib, relatively large sums of money".

He said that while records showed some £347,324 going through the account of Target I.T. between May 2002 and March 2008, the charges they had pleaded guilty to amounted to £111,201 and that from the account, £75,788 had been transferred to Christie with £74,787 going to Davidson.

The lawyer told the court that since the frauds had come to light, "NIACRO computer systems and safeguards were wholly revised".

Jailing the pair, Judge Kerr told the men they had caused a "significant loss to a public body".