Accountant jailed over care home fraud

A Belfast accountant has been jailed for defrauding a care home of more than £1m.

Michael Kinder - whose offending was linked to his addiction to the powerful painkiller Oxycontin - was handed a three-and-a-half year sentence at Belfast Crown Court for defrauding the Nazareth House Care Village of £1,036,955.92.

Telling Mr Kinder his actions led to a loss of his professional reputation, Judge Kevin Finnegan QC told the 52-year old father of four that he will spend 18 months of his sentence in prison, followed by a two-year period on licence.

A defence barrister pointed out that all of the money stolen by her client had been paid back to the charity and cited Mr Kinder's actions as a 'spectacular fall from grace.'

Before passing sentence on Mr Kinder, from Maryville Park in south Belfast, Judge Finnegan was told that the former accountant had admitted three charges - namely fraud by abuse of position, converting criminal property and false accounting.

The offending was committed over a six-and-a-half year period - from April 2011 to October 2017 - when Mr Kinder was responsible for the financial affairs of the care village on the Ravenhill Road in Belfast.

Crown barrister David Russell revealed Mr Kinder's offending emerged in 2017 after Nazareth Care Ireland conducted a routine audit and queries arose.

These queries led to an internal investigation, which he assisted with in his role as a 'trusted third party financial professional.'

Mr Kinder, the Crown said, had provided financial support services to Nazareth House for 25 years, and certified its annual accounts. Mr Russell said that in August 2017, it emerged that bank statements provided by Mr Kinder were 'not genuine' and had been 'changed fraudulently.'

Further financial statements were requested but were 'not forthcoming.' As more financial in-discrepancies and errors were raised, Mr Kinder claimed there had been a serious computer corruption.

It then transpired that money was being transferred from the charity and into two bank accounts held by Mr Kinder. This included around £50,000 which was meant for staff pensions but which Mr Kinder transferred into his own accounts.

Mr Russell said that in October 2017, the full scale of the fraud became apparent and the police were alerted.

Telling Judge Finnegan staff at the care home were 'impacted by Mr Kinder's greed', Mr Russell spoke of a 'gross breach of trust' on Kinder's part. Mr Russell also pointed out that whilst Mr Kinder pleaded guilty in court, when arrested and questioned by police he gave a 'no comment' response.

Defence barrister Eilish McDermott QC said every penny taken by Mr Kinder has since been paid back with money lent to him by a 'lifelong friend' and he 'will spend the rest of his life paying that money back.'

The defence QC said that in the years prior to Mr Kinder's offending, he had lost a source of employment, and the stress over a decrease in income impacted on him as the sole earner with a mortgage to pay.

Ms McDermott also revealed Mr Kinder broke his ankle and was initially prescribed Oxycontin, which he then became addicted to and which resulted in behavioural changes and mental health issues.

The defence barrister said Mr Kinder's family had a 'long-standing association' with the Sisters of Nazareth, and said: "The sisters in residence in Belfast felt sorry he was not able to come to them and explain to them his difficulties, financially speaking, and they would have done what they could to help him - but of course that is not what happened."

Ms McDermott also spoke of Mr Kinder's remorse and embarrassment, and said her client was "acutely aware of the shame he has brought on his family."

Jailing him, Judge Finnegan addressed the former accountant and said "you will no longer be able to practice your profession."

Citing Mr Kinder as a man of 'previous impeccable character', the judge continued: "I am not going to lecture you as you know what you have done to yourself and your family."