A disgraced finance officer who swindled almost £100,000 from a homeless charity to gamble and spoil his wife was jailed for two years yesterday.
Ordering 52-year-old Marcel Mackle to spend a year in jail and the rest on supervised licence, Craigavon Crown Court Judge Patrick Lynch QC told him he had stolen “from the weakest members of our society”.
“There was particular meanness to the offence,” said the judge, adding that as the charity’s finance officer, “an extreme degree of trust was reposed upon you”.
Mackle, from Lakelands in Craigavon, had pleaded guilty to a single count of theft and seven charges of false accounting on dates between February 1, 2006 and September 8 last year.
Prosecuting lawyer Ciaran McCollum said although the charges on the indictment amounted to a total of £69,000, the accepted amount which Mackle had actually stolen from the Edward Street Hostel in Portadown was £93,442.
He described how Mackle was the finance officer for the registered charity, a job he began in 1994, and as such had a “fairly autonomous role” in recording what money came in and where it went to.
“That is one of the reasons why matters lay undiscovered for so long,” said the lawyer.
Mr McCollum told the court the homeless charity had sources of income through donations but also through rents they charged homeless people for properties they owned, totalling around £40,000 a year.
It was this cash which Mackle was stealing to fund a gambling habit and, being in control of the books, was able to confuse the situation and cover his thefts by writing cheques made out to the Revenue and Customs.
He revealed that when an audit and investigation was carried out in September last year, despite the charity believing they were £23,000 in credit as regards their income tax bill, they in fact owed the HMRC more than twice that, some £48,000.
The series of thefts went undetected because Mackle was “the only person who had the authorisation to use the online systems of HMRC”, said Mr McCollum. He added, however, that an audit conducted by the accountants in September last year did at last reveal the frauds.
Defence lawyer Connor Luney revealed that as well as feeding his gambling addiction, at the time the thefts began Mackle’s mother-in-law had died so he had used the cash to take his wife on weekends away and to buy her gifts.