Rugby mum spared jail after stealing £160,000 from Warwick firm

Warwick Crown Court sits at Leamington Justice Centre

Warwick Crown Court sits at Leamington Justice Centre

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A woman who stole more than £160,000 from her Warwick employers to cover debts and buy expensive clothes was spared prison because of the needs of her young baby.

Helen Wright was caught after two years of fraudulently paying herself expenses when she tried to access the company’s accounts while at home on maternity leave last year.

Had it not been for your child being so very young and dependent on you, and that your husband would have to give up work, I would have sent you to prison without any hesitation whatsoever

Recorder Abigail Nixon

Wright, 41 of Welland Close, Long Lawford, Rugby was given a two-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to fraud in abuse of a position of trust at Warwick Crown Court in October.

The court heard thefts began after Wright began work for technology firm, Eaton Industries UK Ltd on Heathcote Industrial Estate in 2009.

As part of her £53,000 a year position, Wright was responsible for sales and expenses which gave her access to company bank accounts.

But on 28 different occasions between April 2011 and September last year, Wright paid various amounts totalling £161,627 into her own account.

Prosecutor Andrew Tucker said the company’s management suspected oddities and launched its own investigation into missing funds at a “relatively early stage” in 2011.

But Wright’s involvement was not discovered until September 2014 - when she was on maternity leave and attempted to pay herself £4,800 by accessing the company accounts system from her laptop.

Mr Tucker said Wright admitted thefts, but claimed only £80,000 of the funds taken had been paid dishonestly.

This is not accepted by Eaton Industries which has started civil proceedings against the former worker for the full amount - none of which has yet been repaid voluntarily.

The court was told Wright began taking the money to cover her husband’s spiralling debts of more than £60,000, but the court questioned where the rest of the money had been spent.

Paul O’Keefe,defending, said Wright sold her home and the £18,000 equity has been set aside pending the outcome of civil proceedings.

But could not explain why more money was taken.

He said: “That she can’t explain. She accepted her shopping habits changed, and she went to more expensive stores and bought better food and more expensive clothes.”

He explained that the fraud began when Wright’s husband, who did now know what she was doing, was made redundant and his new business had a slow start - putting her in a “great deal of difficulty”.

But Wright was spared prison as a custodial sentence would mean her husband having to give up work to look after their young baby.

Sentencing Wright, Recorder Abigail Nixon told her: “It seems to me it was out of pure greed that you decided to use those systems to line your own pocket; not just once, but over a two-and-a-half-year period.

“It seems you were simply living beyond your means. You took more than twice the amount of your debts.

“I am quite satisfied if you had not been found out, you would have carried on. Indeed, while you were on maternity leave you attempted to make another transfer.

“Had it not been for your child being so very young and dependent on you, and that your husband would have to give up work, I would have sent you to prison without any hesitation whatsoever.”

Wright’s sentence was suspended for two years. She must do 300 hours of unpaid work and a probation scheme.