A 50-year-old book-keeper from Haverhill, who stole almost £88,000 from a small family run company, has escaped an immediate jail term.
Susan Strong, of Quendon Place, was today given a suspended jail sentence after pleading guilty to two charges of committing fraud by abusing her position at Edmolift UK Ltd and its associated Lyfthaus UK Ltd, based in Steeple Bumpstead.
She is now faced with having to sell her mortgage-free home to pay back what she took.
Judge Patricia Lynch QC, sitting at Chelmsford Crown Court, imposed a two-year sentence, suspended for two years with an order that Strong must carry out 160 hours’ unpaid work.
The court heard that Strong, who leaned heavily on a walking stick as she made her way to the dock, suffers from multiple sclerosis, diabetes, a thyroid condition and depression, and is the carer for her husband.
As she passed sentence the judge told her: “Over and above a huge amount of money you stole from a small family run business, both your employers and your colleagues have a sense of total betrayal by you and quite rightly so.
“You sought to blame others and your employer says if there were any difficulty in the operation or the way others worked you would have not hesitated at all in telling the employers about it.
“For someone who was continuously and repeatedly defrauding the company, stealing vast amounts of money for two to three years, of course they feel betrayed, distressed and upset and you should be thoroughly, thoroughly ashamed of yourself.”
The judge said she was suspending the prison sentence because Strong was of previous good character and “fortuitously” she was able to repay “every penny”.
The two companies are based at Blois Meadow Business Centre, and Strong worked for Edmolift for 15 years as book-keeper/financial manager.
The company makes and supplies lifting equipment for the disabled and employs 17 people.
Prosecutor Michael Crimp said Strong went off on extended sick leave in February last year after concern about her performance and resigned in September following the accounting discoveries.
Strong had full access to its Pegasus Opera accounting system and she had faked invoices with payments made to her bank account. The total loss was £87,927.95.
When arrested Strong said: “I hold my hands up. I cannot recall it being £87,000.”
Mitigating, Meredoc McMinn said Strong suffered a number of close personal bereavements in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and her husband underwent surgery and could no longer work in 2014. The offences related to those times, he said,
He said Strong was remorseful and would find it difficult to continue with her bookkeeping career, which she had done since 17.
He continued : “While they were fraud offences and involved a cover up they were not particularly sophisticated, not that difficult to find out.”
A court imposed restraint order is already in place on her home, which does not have a mortgage. It is due to be sold.
The judge agreed that a formal confiscation of assets process should follow.