Church £30,000 theft allegations

Ballymena Courthouse. INBT02-213AC
Ballymena Courthouse. INBT02-213AC

A man who occupied a position where he was entrusted to count collections from a congregation is accused of stealing £30,000 cash from a church.

Eamon Shiels (61), of Old Park Avenue, Ballymena, faces four counts of theft from Cuningham Memorial Presbyterian Church in Cullybackey.

He also faces one count of fraud by abuse of position and two allegations of converting criminal property.

The case was mentioned at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday and the accused was not present.

Court charge sheets show that one charge alleges that Shiels took £30,000 from the church between July 1, 2008 and March 31, 2015.

He is also accused of stealing £660 from the church in August 2014; £770 in March 2015 and a fourth theft charge accuses him of stealing £600 from a Sunday School collection at the church between the start of September in 2013 and the end of that year.

The fraud by abuse of position charge alleges that on dates between 2008 and 2015 ‘whilst occupying a position in which you were expected to safeguard, or not to act against, the financial interests of Cuningham Memorial Presbyterian Church, dishonestly abused that position in that you took cash from collections within the Church which you were entrusted to count’.

The converting criminal property charges allege that the accused deposited cash stolen from the church into his bank account and also a female’s bank account.

A defence barrister said his client was alleged to have been involved in “quite significant thefts and frauds”. He said Shiels had been interviewed in 2015 and then nothing happened until in recent weeks papers in connection with the court appearance were served on him.

Mr Moore said there had been a “significant investigation” and he would need a considerable amount of time to go through the papers.

The case was adjourned until the New Year.