Payroll administrator can spend Christmas with family while awaiting conviction
A payroll administrator who stole more than € 870,000 from Virgin Media Television over a ten-year period has been remanded in custody pending conviction to spend time with her young family over Christmas.
Kellie Walton (40) of Kilfenora Road, Kimmage, pleaded guilty in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to stealing € 70,614 from Virgin Media Television, Westgate Business Park, Ballymount, Dublin on an unknown date in 2019.
She also pleaded guilty to theft of € 34,961 from Virgin Media at the same address also on an unknown date in 2009 and a false accounting charge between 2009 and 2019. She has no previous convictions and has no previous convictions. hasn’t caught Garda’s attention since.
Walton had worked as a payroll administrator at the company since 2006.
Eoghan Cole BL, prosecutor, told the court that the pleadings were representative of a number of theft charges, one charge per year between 2009 and 2019 and that additional money laundering charges could be considered.
Detective Garda John Tuttle described the various amounts Walton stole each year. He agreed with Mr. Cole that each transaction typically involved less than $ 10,000, which Walton then transferred to one of two bank accounts over which she had control.
The largest amount stolen each year was over € 120,000 with a total amount of € 872,437 taken, Det Gda Tuttle said.
Walton’s attorney told the court that his client had not used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle or buy high-end cars or designer clothes, but instead used it to “soften up the edges of family life ”.
Fiona Murphy SC said her client started stealing at a time when her partner couldn’t work due to poor health and the family was under “financial stress”, but then it turned into something that ” got out of hand ”.
“As things went on she found herself caught in a web,” Ms Murphy said, describing how Walton lived in constant fear of being caught and was “haunted by his actions”.
“She was looking over her shoulder for 10 years,” the lawyer said, adding that Walton lived in constant fear and anxiety and “lived a half-life waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
Ms Murphy said her client lived in rented accommodation and did not have a family home to show. “Money has been wasted on low-end disposable items,” the lawyer said.
“The sums at stake do more than soften the edges,” said Judge Melanie Greally after estimating that most of the sums taken each year amount to a significant annual salary.
“I don’t know what her family thought she was doing with her career by allowing her to share the benefits of her job so generously,” the judge continued.
Justice Greally said she needed time to review the contents of various reports, letters and testimony submitted on Walton’s behalf.
She asked Ms Murphy if her client “wanted to be on the loose on Christmas”. The woman has four children ranging from one to 20 years old.
The lawyer said Walton expected to go to jail today, but said she may wish to spend this Christmas with her children and asked to be allowed to follow her client’s instructions.
Ms Murphy thanked the judge for the opportunity and said Walton would like his case to be finalized in the New Year. Walton was remanded in custody and the case was adjourned until the following January 19.
Detective Gda Tuttle said Walton worked as a payroll administrator for the company from 2006 and as such authorized the payment of salaries and expenses to staff and casual workers.
In order to steal the money, she made unauthorized payments to casual staff on behalf of people who previously worked there and forged the relevant documents to support the payment.
She would then transfer the amount to one of the two bank accounts and then withdraw the money in cash or transfer the funds to her own bank account.
Detective Gda Tuttle said a Garda investigation was opened after Virgin Media conducted its own internal investigation. It was found that € 90,000 had been stolen from the company’s bank account and transferred to an unauthorized bank account.
Walton was identified as a suspect as she was the only person who had the access and authority to conduct such transactions.
She was on vacation when the discovery was made, but agreed to participate in an online chat with her employer in which she took responsibility for taking the money, expressed remorse and said she would do confessions later.
Detective Gda Tuttle said the ensuing garda investigation led to the discovery that Walton had stolen money over an extended period of time. He had € 2,000 left in his own bank account which was subsequently frozen.
Walton was arrested on January 28, 2020 and questioned on four occasions during which she “exercised her right to remain silent,” Cole said.
Detective Gda Tuttle agreed with Ms Murphy that Walton was very pregnant at the time of her arrest and was clearly upset and distressed during the interviews.
Ms Murphy said Walton’s first objective in stealing money was “to provide for the needs of the family” because she had “a serious fear of letting her family down.”
She said in many ways that her client thought it was “a blessing to be confronted” and said she was “committed in every way possible” to her rehabilitation.
The attorney said Walton also helped a family member who had been in trouble and there was an additional £ 28,000 frozen in other bank accounts of family members who received money from Walton.
Detective Gda Tuttle admitted that her extended family is made up of hard-working people who would not be on the guard’s radar.
Ms Murphy said Walton “could not participate” in the interviews with Garda as she was very pregnant at the time and “just quit”. She said Walton was “a huge support to her husband and children” and had a “very focused attitude on supporting his family”.
Ms Murphy said the thefts were “initially committed out of desperation” but then Walton wanted to help other family members and she found herself trapped.
She described her client as “the glue that holds the family together” and said she was ready to engage in whatever process the court deems appropriate. A probation report concluded that she had a low risk of reoffending.