‘X’ marks the spot as chef caught handling stolen €50 notes from restaurant

March 21, 2024

A chef who admitted handling stolen cash after his boss had set up a sting operation has received 100 hours community service.

Marcus Cullen appeared before Donegal Circuit Court charged with handling the stolen cash.

Cullen, 37, admitted handling the two €50 notes, at the Blue Leak Restaurant on Main Street in Bundoran on July 18th, 2019.

The single charge was brought under the Theft and Fraud Offences Act.

The background to the case was given by Garda Sergeant Stewart Doyle before Judge John Aylmer.

The court heard that the owner of the restaurant had suspected that cash was going missing from the restaurant.

In a bid to confirm his suspicions, the owner marked a number of €50 notes with a small ‘x’ and then took pictures of the serial numbers on the notes.

On July 18th, the owner noticed that two €50 notes were missing and asked staff to empty their pockets.

When the notes were found on Cullen of East Rock, Ballyshannon, he said the money was his and he denied taking the cash.

Cullen then demanded that Gardai be called.

The chef was then arrested and interviewed but denied any knowledge of stealing the money.

The court was told by Sergeant Doyle that Cullen has nine previous convictions but they all relate to one incident of forgery and theft from the Department of Social Protection.

The case against Cullen involved claims that he was only working two days a week when he was actually working the full week and claiming benefits also.

He received a suspended sentence and his barrister Peter Nolan said all of the money had been repaid.

Mr Nolan said his client was a hard-working man who had worked in a number of different restaurants while also caring for his sister who suffered from mental health issues and also the son of a friend who is bi-polar.

He said Cullen’s attitude was that the notes in his pocket were the notes involved but that he did not take them and he does not know how they got there.

He said he had been working for this Polish gentleman for some time but that after this incident he lost his group which was no surprise.

However, he is recognised as a good worker to the extent that his former boss’s partner wants him to work for her in another restaurant.

Mr Nolan also revealed that while he had previous issues with drugs and alcohol, this was now longer the case.

He pointed to the probation report on Cullen which stated that he accepts the gravity of the charge, but was courteous and was at a moderate risk of reoffending.

Mr Nolan asked Judge John Aylmer to be as lenient as possible saying Cullen had saved the court a lot of time.

Passing sentence, Judge Aylmer stressed that the charge before the court was one of handling the stolen cash but that it cannot be established if Cullen was involved in the stealing of the cash.

Although he now has previous convictions, at the time of this offence he did not and so the Judge said the matter was at the lower end of the scale of such offences meriting a sentence of six months in prison before mitigation.

Judge Aylmer also remarked that it was the court’s view that the issue could have been dealt with summarily – in the district court.

In mitigation, Cullen had no previous convictions at the time, looked after his ill sister and was also a hard-working individual.

Taking all that into account, Judge Aylmer said that in all of the circumstances he would impose a sentence of 100 hours community service in lieu of five months in prison.

However, he warned “But he better not come before me again.”