Bank put £43,000 in wrong account, woman went on spending spree

She was ordered to pay back just £860 to the bank

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A single mum living on benefits who went on a "massive spending spree" after a bank accidentally deposited €51,000 (£43,750) in her account has walked free from court.

Margaret McDonnell, 23, received a suspended jail sentence after spending the money on items for her two children - including bedclothes, clothes and shoes - the Irish Mirror reports.

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She also ate out every night for two weeks - brought her friends and family out for dinner - and bought gifts including two crystal vases and a "crystal mushroom lamp", Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.

McDonnell - who insisted "any young girl on social welfare like me would have done what I did" - was ordered to pay just €1,000 (£860) back to the bank within 18 months.



Referring to the money lodged in McDonnell's account, Judge Cormac Quinn commented: "If it's too good to be true it is because it is too good to be true."

Oisin Clarke, defending, said it was a case of the goose laying golden eggs and McDonnell spending the money before it stopped.


Margaret McDonnell's details were wrongly given to a customer making a large deposit


McDonnell of Rathvilly Park, Finglas, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of theft of cash from Bank of Ireland on dates between 7 and 16 March 2013.

Between large ATM withdrawals and money spent in shops and restaurants, a total of €24,946 (£21,400) was taken.

Last January, Judge Quinn adjourned the case to give time to the Probation Service to assess McDonnell's suitability for community service.

And today, he noted that the Probation Service had put her at a low risk of re-offending.

He suspended a sentence of 18 months on condition that she pay €1,000 (£860) back to the bank within 18 months- and also ordered her to carry out 150 hours of community service.

Detective Garda Karl Smith told the court that in March 2013 a Bank of Ireland customer went into the branch in Finglas to get details to allow the transfer of €51,808 (£44,450) into his account from a foreign bank account.

He was given an IBAN number but when the money did not later show up in his bank account, he contacted the bank again. It was then discovered he had been incorrectly given the details of McDonnell's account.

Credits: Irish Mirror WSMargaret McDonnell spent the cash on her kids and her friends - including meals and gifts

The €51,808 had dropped into her account on March 6. The following day she withdrew €5,000 (£4,290).

Over the next nine days she spent large amounts in Dunnes Stores, Tesco, Heatons, Centra, Lifestyle Sports, Shoe Rack and New Look.

On discovering its mistake, the bank took back the €26,862 (£23,000) remaining from the original deposit.

They also wrote to McDonnell asking her to repay the rest but she ignored the letter.

After her arrest she accepted full responsibility for spending the money. She told the gardai (the local police) that she thought the money was hers if it was in her bank account.

She said: "I just went on a high. It was such a lot of money. It was in my account so as far as I was concerned, it was mine."

She said she spent the money "on everything and anything, stupid things".

Asked if she was bothered by the thefts she told gardaí: "If only you knew me, you would know I was bothered by this.

"Any young girl on social welfare like me would have done what I did."

She said she ignored the letter from the bank because she was scared and realised she had done something wrong.

Mr Clarke said his client had never before had disposal income to spend and had never been able to buy gifts for friends or family.

On March 7 she spent €3,844 (£3,300) in Tierney's gift shop in Blanchardstown after buying two crystal vases and a crystal lamp.

Judge Quinn asked how she managed to spend so much in gift shops that sell "ordinary middle of the road type gifts".

Counsel said McDonnell had never been in trouble before and had always tried to live her life in an upright fashion.

Det Gda Smith said it was highly unlikely she would reoffend.

He said she had "flittered the money away" and had nothing to show for it all.

Mr Clarke said McDonnell receives €250 (£215) lone parent allowance each week and could only afford to pay €15 (£12.90) out of this to make up the stolen money.

Judge Quinn said the offences weren't pre-planned and the money was spent on mundane things.


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