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Employee scammed Galway City shop for €20,000


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Employee scammed Galway City shop for €20,000 Employee scammed Galway City shop for €20,000

A young man who stole over €20,000 from the shop in which he worked in Galway City has picked up a two-and-a-half-year suspended sentence.

João Vitor Brasileiro Praça (23) with an address at 20 Tír na gCapall, Old Monivea Road, was before a sitting of Galway Circuit Criminal Court in Loughrea for sentencing last week, having pleaded guilty to stealing the money in 71 transactions on dates between November 3, 2022 and January 9, 2023.

Detective Garda Patrick Fahy told the court that Praça, a Brazilian national, used the Payzone facility in Gala on Prospect Hill to transfer money into his own online banking account.

Det Garda Fahy said this involved sending sums to a ‘Money Jar’ account using the in-store payment machine for which he was not reimbursing the shop.

The court heard that store owner Paul Harnett contacted Gardaí when he noticed that Praça had carried out 53 separate transactions of €300 between January 3 and January 9, 2023, amounting to €15,900.

This was in the form of Money Jar vouchers, which Det Garda Fahy said was similar to Revolut but differed in that lodgements could be made in any business which had a Payzone machine.

When Money Jar, a Dublin-based financial institution, was contacted by Gardaí, it transpired that all 53 transfers were to an account in the name of the defendant.

The account was frozen by Money Jar at the request of Gardaí with just over €8,000 remaining in it.

Det Garda Fahy said it was discovered that Praça had been transferring money from his Money Jar account to his Revolut account and it was also frozen with just over €1,100 in credit.

An additional 18 transfers via Payzone made by the defendant to himself were found soon afterwards, said Garda Fahy, in which Praça stole a further €4,825 over a two-week period.

“CCTV in the shop was obtained and clearly show the accused at the till on his own, interacting with the Payzone machine,” said Det Garda Fahy.

Praça was arrested on January 11, 2023, and made a full admission, apologised and said he regretted his actions.

As part of efforts to recoup Mr Harnett’s losses, the funds from the defendant’s Revolut and Money Jar accounts were transferred back to their rightful owner.

Det Garda Fahy said as part of their investigations, it was discovered that Praça had used some of the money to purchase a laptop from Dell valued at €3,699. As delivery of the laptop had not been made, Gardaí were able to have the order cancelled and have the refund sent to Mr Harnett.

In total, €12,892.48 had been recovered and Payzone had agreed to reimburse Mr Harnett €7,500 over a three-year period.

The total amount that would be recuperated, once the three-year period had passed, would be €20,392.48, said Garda Fahy – just shy of the €20,725 that was stolen.

Judge Brian O’Callaghan was told Praça had come to Ireland to study English in April 2022 and had taken a part-time job at the Gala store just off Eyre Square.

Defending barrister Brendan Browne said his client’s mother had died before he came to Ireland and he was sending money home to Brazil.

Prosecuting on behalf of the State, Geri Silke BL, said the maximum sentence available to the court was ten years imprisonment on each of the 71 counts of theft contrary to Section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001.

Judge O’Callaghan said Praça was not long in the country when his offending commenced.

“The victim in this case should be extremely grateful to [Det Garda Fahy] for his work in this case because he would not be reimbursed were it not for the good work of An Garda Síochána,” he said.

Praça’s thefts had been pre-planned and while the court was satisfied he regretted his actions, Judge O’Callaghan said a custodial sentence was warranted.

Imposing headline sentence of five years imprisonment, he said he would reduce this by 50% as a result of Praça’s guilty plea and because it was a first-time offence.

Judge O’Callaghan ordered that if the defendant paid €3,000 to the victim within 12-months and entered a bond to be of good behaviour and keep the peace for three years, he would suspend the remaining two-and-a-half years.

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