Charity fraudsters get suspended terms

Mayor of Craigavon Sidney Anderson with Nuala Magee, chief executive of Together 4 All and John McGregor, chairman at the launch of the Together 4 All programme for primary Schools. LM4108-114gc
Mayor of Craigavon Sidney Anderson with Nuala Magee, chief executive of Together 4 All and John McGregor, chairman at the launch of the Together 4 All programme for primary Schools. LM4108-114gc

The disgraced chief executive of a children’s charity who abused her position to swindle almost £50,000 to fund an extravagant lifestyle escaped jail last Thursday after a judge suspended her 18-month prison sentence for two years.

Freeing 48-year-old Nuala Magee at Craigavon Crown Court, Judge Patrick Kinney told her he was only suspending the term because of the “exceptional circumstances” surrounding a previously undiagnosed “significant depressive disorder” and the impact her incarceration would have on her youngest son.

Likewise her husband, 45-year-old Declan Shannon, whose personal and business bank accounts were used to launder the swindled cash, also escaped jail when his 12-month jail term was suspended for the same period.

Last March Magee, from Allengrove in Crumlin, pleaded guilty to a total of 29 offences including 23 of false accounting, five of transferring criminal property and a single charge of theft, all of which occurred on various dates between October 27 2008 and June 23 2011, while her husband, with the same address, admitted two specimen offences of possessing criminal property.

Magee was the project manager, chief executive and secretary of the now defunct, Lurgan-based Together 4 All children’s charity when she created numerous fake invoices amounting to some £48,266 which was then paid into the personal and business bank accounts of Shannon.

Since stealing the money, the couple had been living in Forde in the Australia Capital Territory, but in February a judge ordered them to come back to Northern Ireland or face arrest.

The Together 4 All charity was funded by an American company, Atlantic Philanthropies, who bankrolled it to the tune of $6.6 million (£4,2m) in 2007 to implement their 10-year plan to better children’s futures through integrated education in the mid-Ulster area, but it has now disbanded.

Prosecuting lawyer Nicola Auret told the court how the stolen monies had been spent on gambling trips to Drumbo Park greyhound track, expensive holidays abroad and city centre shopping sprees.

The frauds were uncovered in 2010, however, when the charity held an audit of the internal accounts.

Judge Kinney said it was clear that Magee had been the “prime mover” in the frauds which had resulted in a “substantial loss to the charity which was established to improve the lives of children”.

As well as the suspended jail sentences, Judge Kinney made a £20,000 compensation order which Ms Auret said had already been handed over.