Gosport woman sentenced to five years after stealing money from her employers

12/11/2012

A 42-year-old woman from Gosport has today been sentenced to five years and six months’ imprisonment at Portsmouth Crown Court for offences of fraud and failing to surrender to bail.

Following the sentence Martyn Booth, Crown Advocate for the Crown Prosecution Service Wessex said: Joanne Brookss deception has had devastating repercussions on the lives of her employers, Roy and Laura Carvalho. They have seen their company of 20 years going into liquidation and will have to sell their house because of the fraudulent activities of an employee that they trusted and considered as a friend.

 Joanna Brooks was employed as an administrative officer by the couple who were the owner of CA Automotive Technology Limited based in Gosport, Hampshire.  

 Mr Booth said: Over a two year period, she had become a trusted employee and a friend to Mr and Mrs Carvalho who gave her the responsibility of paying suppliers. To do so, she used signed blank cheques given to her by Mr and Mrs Carvalho.

 While Joanne Brooks was on holiday, Mrs Carvalho was chased up by a company who said that they had not been paid. She checked the company books, which indicated that they had.

 She then contacted her bank who told her that the money had left their account but was banked into the Joanne Brooks account.

 Joanne Brooks stole nearly £156,000 from their company. She did this by paying cheques and money transfers into her own account instead of the accounts of the companys suppliers. The police were informed and the true extent of the deception was revealed.  

 The administrative officer would often spend hundreds of pounds in high street stores and spent thousands of pounds on foreign holidays for her and others, including one holiday to Barbados in the Caribbean.

 Analysis of her bank account showed that she was making large cash withdrawals on a regular basis as well as spending money on luxury items

All of this was happening whilst Mr and Mrs Carvalho were tightening their belt significantly to cater for their failing business.

 The combined effect of this fraud was to prove disastrous for them. The company that they had spent so long building and operating, suffered serious financial difficulties.

 Mr and Mrs Carvalho spent their life savings in an attempt to keep the company afloat, but ultimately their efforts were in vain. The company went into liquidation, leaving them without a source of income and without any savings to fall back upon.Their financial situation was so desperate that they will have to sell their house.

 Not only that they had to endure the devastating impact that this has had on their lives but they had also to endure all the delays caused by Joanne Brooks during the court proceedings.

 She pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud on 13 August 2012 and the sentencing was adjourned until 5 September 2012.  

 On that date she did not attend, claiming that she had chest pains and was on route to hospital in an ambulance.  The sentencing was again adjourned until 4 October.  

 On 3 October a letter was provided to the court claiming that she was due to have cardiac surgery involving a 14 hour operation to remove damaged heart muscle.  A recovery time of six weeks was suggested.

 Subsequent enquiries with local hospitals showed that her claims about impending surgery were in fact lies. It was later established that she had made all of this up. A warrant was issued, and she was arrested and remanded in custody.

 The effect, as well as delaying justice, was to delay legal closure for Mr and Mrs Carvalho and all those affected by this fraud.

 The sentence passed by Her Honour Judge Munro Q.C. demonstrates the extremely serious nature of this fraud and the dim view taken of anyone who tries to avoid justice.

 We hope that Mr and Mrs Carvalho can now begin to put the effects of this extremely difficult period behind them, and we hope that they can proceed with the task of rebuilding their lives.