A woman who stole more than €200,000 from her music booking agency employer over a six-year period in order to fund her gambling addiction has been jailed for 18 months, writes Isabel Hayes.
Faye Buckley (43) was a close family friend of her employer, Mark Downing of Audio Networks Music Agency, when she stole hundreds of thousands of euro from the family business by diverting client’s booking deposits into her personal bank account.
In his victim impact statement, which he read out in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Mr Downing was visibly upset as he described how Buckley’s husband was his best friend, how he was best man at their wedding and godfather to Buckley’s daughter.
“It’s not only the money, but the level of deceit,” he said. “In an environment of family and friendship, we trusted this person unconditionally.” It was “emotionally unbearable”, he added.
Buckley of Vale View Lawn, The Park, Cabinteely, Co Dublin pleaded guilty to seven out of 71 sample counts of theft from her employer on dates between May 2014 and May 2020.
Aideen Collard BL, prosecuting, told the court Buckley stole €204,834 from the music and entertainment booking agency over the course of 450 transactions.
Buckley also took the stand at her sentence hearing and tearfully apologised directly to Mr Downing and his family, saying: “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you”.
Buckley told the court she was a compulsive gambling addict. She said that when she listened in court to everything she put Mr Downing and his family through, she couldn’t believe it was her.
“They were my friends, they gave me a job,” she said. “They did everything for me.”
The court heard Buckley and her family moved in with her mother-in-law in order to save money to pay back Mr Downing and she had €45,000 saved up as a token of her remorse.
Buckley has a number of previous convictions including one for dangerous driving causing serious harm in 2004.
Sentencing her Judge Martin Nolan said he considered “this form of theft to be very serious. He was a close and trusted friend and it was a gross breach of trust,” he continued before he said a custodial sentence was necessary.
He sentenced Buckley to two and half years in prison and suspended the final year on strict conditions including that she hands over €45,000 to Mr Downing within 11 months of being released from prison.
Detective Garda Daniel Treacy told the court that Mr Downing set up the music and entertainment booking company in 1996 and it remained a family business. The company arranges band and other entertainment bookings for events, the court heard.
Mr Downing employed Buckley in 2011 after her husband told him she was looking for work. Part of her work included arranging booking deposits from clients, the court heard. The band would then be paid directly by the clients on the night, with the company having no further financial transactions with them.
The business struggled with the onset of Covid and the company had to make staff members redundant, including Buckley. The thefts came to light when an email by a client was diverted to Mr Downing and he discovered that the booking was not on the system and the deposit had never been received, the court heard.
It emerged Buckley had regularly given clients her own bank details to pay the deposits into and then made no note of the booking on the company system.
When interviewed by gardaí, Buckley made full admissions. She emailed Mr Downing begging him not to send her to jail, saying she couldn’t cope with the shame it would bring on her family.
In his victim impact statement, Mr Downing said the money stolen by Buckley would have gone a long way in helping the business when it was forced to make staff redundant in 2020.
He said he and his wife have spent the last two years trying to track down Buckley’s clients in order to pay them back the deposits the company never received, which was “disheartening”.
Mr Downing said the company paid good wages and bonuses, but still Buckley “stole from us while pretending she was a close friend – day in, day out”.
He said it had been financially stressful and he was in a “constant anxious state of mind”.
Patrick Reynolds BL, defending, said his client suffered from drink, drugs and gambling addiction and has been receiving treatment. The court heard Buckley hasn’t gambled in nearly two years.
He said his client was extremely remorseful. She has been unable to find work due to the theft charges before the court but she moved in with family members in order to try and save money to pay back Mr Downing, he said.
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