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Man who racked up debt of £3,500 to bookie engaged in fraudulent activity to pay it back

Defence said: 'He has never been involved in criminality before but those addicted to gambling are fertile ground for these people'

Craigavon Magistrates Court

A Lurgan man who racked up a gambling debt of £3,500 was given the chance to wipe it clean by becoming involved in fraud.

The 31-year-old’s legal representative said the defendant had built up this debt after borrowing the stake for bets from the bookie, something which he admitted was “obviously” illegal.

Mark McAllister, of Kiln Avenue, appeared for sentencing on acquiring criminal property and three counts of fraud by false representation at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

Prosecution outlined that on May 11, police were contacted by Lloyds Bank regarding fraudulent internet bank transfers from one of their customer’s accounts.

Their customer claimed to have been called by a person claiming to be from the bank asking for details, including those on his passport and driver’s licence.

Four transfers of £3,500 were then made from this person’s bank account with one of these going to an Ulster Bank account belonging to the defendant.

Prosecution informed court that the transfer was made on March 13, 2018, with all of the money having been spent by the next day.

Defence counsel stated: “Mr McAllister got himself into a position due to a severe gambling addiction. To facilitate it he had been borrowing the stake of his bets from the bookie, meaning if he lost he had to pay back the stake.

“This was rock bottom and obviously none of this is legal. When he lost the bets the bookies who lent him the money came looking for it and he built up a debt of £3,500.”

He continued: “He was informed that it would be wiped clean if he allowed money to go into his account. He then changed this for foreign currency and gave it to another person. He knows this was illegal in hindsight.

“He has never been involved in criminality before but those addicted to gambling are fertile ground for these people. He has since taken steps informing gambling companies not to allow him to bet.”

District Judge Amanda Brady commented: “I am surprised the prosecution are not asking for any compensation.”

Defence counsel stated: “£14,000 was taken from the account in total – £3,500 into Mr McAllister’s account but that was not to his benefit.”

District Judge Brady said: “This is obviously a serious matter you got yourself involved in but I will give you credit for your guilty plea and the fact you have no record.”

McAllister was sentenced to four months in prison suspended for two years.

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