The treasurer of a Co Antrim hall management committee abused his position to steal thousands of pounds which he used to fund his gambling addiction, a court heard on Thursday.
Kenneth McKee was handed a 12-month prison sentence, which was suspended for three years, after he admitted stealing around £16,900 from Cloughfern Trustee and Hall Management Committee.
The 50-year old, from Kings Walk in Whiteabbey, began stealing money in January 2013 and his offending went on for five years.
Passing sentence, Judge RoseAnn McCormick QC said McKee “betrayed the trust of his colleagues.”
Belfast Crown Court heard the Committee consisted of just four people, of which McKee was treasurer, and that part of his responsibility was looking after the finances of a hall rented out to local groups.
These groups paid “modest funds” to use the premises, and McKee was also in charge of looking after the bills linked to the hall - such as rates and electric.
In his position, McKee was supposed to lodge all money, including rent, into the Committee’s Danske Bank account. Instead, McKee either kept cash that should have been lodged, or wrote cheques from the account to himself.
On some occasions, McKee made out cheques to his wife, and he also forged signatures of other committee colleagues.
McKee’s offending began to emerged with his colleagues noticed he was either failing to attend committee meetings, or attending without the cheque books. When McKee stopped attending the meetings altogether, the other members called at his home, where he was asked to produce financial documents.
At this point, suspicions were roused that he may have been stealing, and the police were called. McKee admitted what he had done during interview, and told officers that his life had spiralled out of control since losing his job, and that he had a gambling addiction.
During the sentencing, Judge McCormick addressed McKee and said: “The money you took was used for gambling and not used to pay everyday bills.”
The Judge also noted that McKee told Probation he felt “ashamed” the first time he stole from the committee, and felt that he would be able to pay all the money back if he had a big win.
Judge McCormick said she accepted McKee had not sought to blame anyone else, and was seeking to address both his gambling addiction and his tendency to self-medicate with alcohol.
After admitted both theft and a charge of fraud by abuse of position, McKee was handed a suspended sentence.