Woman jailed for fraud and theft from her employer - Luton

14/02/2014

A trusted employee of a family run building business fleeced them of at least £117,000 causing financial difficulties and putting jobs in jeopardy, a court has heard.

Karen Waller, who had been employed by C.Wood and Sons of Luton since 1999, was jailed for two years at Luton Crown Court today, Friday, 14 February 2014.

The public gallery was packed with her former work colleagues, who had forgone wage rises as the business struggled. The court was told that since her dismissal in January last year, the company had returned to making a profit.

Waller's barrister, Timothy Clark said she had found the experience of being in court "shameful and mortifying."

Waller, 54, of Alpine Way, Luton, pleaded guilty to four charges of fraud and one charge of theft.

Claudette Elliott, prosecuting for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said there was a dispute about the total value of money stolen, with the prosecution putting the figure at £138,000 and the defence at £117,540.

She told the court: "This was a serious breach of trust from someone who had had complete confidence placed in her by the family run business. The ramifications of her offending went beyond the owners and affected the whole staff of 25."

She said Waller began as a secretary, but was promoted to office manager and accounts manager and was later working as an asbestos surveyor.

"The dishonesty can be traced back to Octobr 2005 and shows a systematic fleecing of this small business. She duplicated her weekly wages, charged overtime for work she had not done and used a company credit card for personal use, for example paying council tax on a house in Wales.

"She also diverted money to two companies she named, but did not exist, and the money was paid into her own account. The trust placed in her was huge and the dishonesty only came to light through the good and dedicated work of the director's daughter," said Miss Elliott.

Mrs Waller was confronted in a management meeting and made some admissions about overpaying herself, and later signed a confession. She told police that she did not know how much money she had taken and claimed she would have been destitute if she had not had the money.

Mr. Clark, defending said: "She was of good character, but pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. She has been receiving treatment for depression since being discovered. She is a broken woman. She knows exactly how she is viewed by those she betrayed and is ashamed of herself. Rather than living a life of opulence, she was in debt."

Judge Richard Foster told the married mother of two: "This was a systematic fraud and theft from an employer who had given you a job, promoted you and put you in a position of trust.  If it had not been uncovered, this fraud would still have been going on today. It is tragic for you and your family, but you only have yourself to blame for that."

A confiscation of assets hearing will be held later in the year.

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