Sales manager’s fraud results in jail sentence

Judge David McFarland heard the case at Belfast Crown Court. Image: Google Maps
Judge David McFarland heard the case at Belfast Crown Court. Image: Google Maps

A former sales manager at a UK trade printer has been jailed after being found guilty of a six-figure fraud.

Last year, Printweek revealed that a police investigation was underway into an alleged fraud perpetrated at Belfast print firm

The case was heard at Belfast Crown Court last week.

Former Quinns sales manager Sean Patrick O’Neill appeared by videolink and admitted three offences – fraud by abuse of position and two counts of fraud by false representation.  

O’Neill began his employment at the trade printer as a salesman in 2015, and was subsequently promoted to sales manager.

In this role, O'Neill’s responsibilities included vetting new customers and setting up lines of credit.

Judge David McFarland said O'Neill then “entered into an arrangement with another party to create false customers”, and that as part of his offending O'Neill would allocate money paid for genuine services to these false customers, which he then retained.

The court heard that the loss to Quinns amounted to between £122,000 and £154,000.

Judge McFarland described O'Neill's actions as "confidence-sapping offending" and noted the "major financial impact" it had on the company, which had to lay off staff.

The Bradley Group restructured its Northern Ireland operations Quinns and Nicholson & Bass in the summer of 2019, with managing director Peter Bradley subsequently stating that the damage to the firm’s cashflow caused by the fraud was “so significant” that the drastic restructure was the only way to preserve jobs.

Judge McFarland said O'Neill's criminal behaviour emerged when "money was no longer available and the matter came to light," and that the money he generated by fraud was used to fund his gambling and substance addictions.

The Judge also said he had noted O'Neill's lack of previous offending, his good work record and the steps he had taken to tackle his addiction issues.

Also noted was the period of offending, the amount involved and the impact it has had on the company.

O’Neill was handed an 18 month sentence.

The 31-year old was informed by Judge McFarland that he will spend the next nine months in prison, followed by a nine month period on licence.

Imposing the prison sentence, Judge McFarland said: "People have to be aware that if they are put in a position of trust in whatever capacity, and if that trust is breached, that will lead to an immediate custodial sentence."

Speaking to Printweek after the conclusion of the case, Bradley said: “He cost us a lot of money. We would have sold the paper alone for about £300,000. It’s very disappointing and the fact that Sean had become a personal friend makes it even more disappointing.”

Bradley Group has just moved its NI operations to its Limestone Road site. Bradley said the lease had expired on the Mallusk site previously occupied by Nicholson & Bass.

He said that amid the drop-off in work caused by the Covid-19 pandemic the firm remained focused on trade print work.

“We are still a trade only printer sticking to our core products. It’s tough but we are rebuilding. We will be a smaller, leaner business on the other side of this.”

Separately, former Bradley Group employees who had their redundancy claims rejected are still awaiting a tribunal date due to Covid-19. 


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