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Gloucestershire Business News

Sentence for Gloucester woman who stole almost £112,000 from employer

A Gloucester woman who fleeced her employers out of almost £112,000 and squandered the money on gambling and her own shopping obsession has been sentenced to a two year suspended jail term.

Rebecca Phillips, 28, of Stroud Road, Gloucester, who admitted two charges of fraudulent activity against her employers, CC Ground Investigation of Innsworth, was not present at the city crown court for sentencing yesterday (Monday 14) because she is self-isolating.

In March this year when she pleaded guilty to the two charges the judge, Ian Lawrie QC, deferred the sentence on Phillips for six months to see if she could 'sort her life out'.

Yesterday Phillips appeared by video link to the court from home after advised being advised self-isolate by a Coronavirus track and trace investigator.

Prosecutor Nicholas Lee said her fraudulent actions had a 'devastating impact' on the company as the theft was equivalent to a third of its profits and plans to upgrade essential equipment had to be put on hold. It also damaged their reputation.

Mr Lee said: "The offences occurred between July 3, 2017 and July 3, 2018. Phillips was employed as an office administrator, fraudulently used two company credit cards, one in her name and one in a colleague, to obtain the money for non-company purchases.

"Phillips took advantage of the company's new accountancy system and managed to hide the statements connected with the credit cards usage.

"After a long period of time the director then received a tip off that somebody was stealing from the company and stated that the amount was 'life-changing'.

"The company then launched an investigation into Phillips' fraudulent activity discovered that she had obtained £111,994.95.

"The money was eventually refunded by the HSBC - leaving the bank seeking redress from Phillips."

The court was told that Phillips had contacted the bank and increased the credit limit on both credit cards to £8,000-£9,000. She made 7,000 transactions with Gala Bingo and spent some £60,000 on gambling.

Phillips' retail spending spree to satisfy her compulsion to buy items for herself and her partner amounted to £2,600. It is believed that the balance was taken out in cash to pay for the rent of the property she had moved into with her partner.

Sarah Jenkins defending explained that the offending began when Phillips, at the age of 18, had started a relationship with a much older man who was 'controlling' - with the result that she became distanced from her family and friends.

Ms Jenkins said: "Phillips fully intended in paying the money back and resorted to gambling in a bid to try and win the money, which was ultimately unsuccessful.

"It was the compulsion of buying that gave her the retail pleasure and satisfaction rather than the greed of wanting the items she purchased.

"When she was challenged by the police she immediately admitted her offending. The police found many of the items she had purchased still in their original wrapping.

"Phillips was racked by guilt and has tried to address her issues by voluntarily attending the Nelson Trust and she has sought help from The Priory in Bristol to help with her rehabilitation.

"She has also moved back home to live with her parents who are helping her receive the physiological help she needs.

"Phillips has also gained employment in a warehouse and so far has managed to save £1,000 to pay back to the bank."

Judge Lawrie QC told Phillips: "What you've indulged in was a consistent course of dishonesty against your employer.

"And what you did was to manipulate the use of the company credit cards for your own fraudulent gain of almost £112,000 and spent the ill-gotten gains on gambling.

"Your dishonesty has resulted in the company facing financial difficulty and having its reputation affected.

"This case crosses the custody threshold but having heard your mitigation and the progress you have made with the Nelson Trust to address your offending, I feel there is a prospect of rehabilitation."

The judge sentenced Phillips to a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered her to complete an 18-month community order that includes 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days. She must also pay a contribution to court costs of £250 and a victim surcharge of £140.

"You are fortunate in two ways because the significant loss suffered by the company has been repaid by the bank and the steps you have taken since your arrest meant that you have fallen on you sword and admitted responsibility for your actions," added the judge.

"You have also voluntarily sought help from two bodies to help with your rehabilitation which has enabled me to suspend your sentence."

Phillips will face a proceeds of crime hearing, on a date to be fixed, when the court will decide what assets she has and how much of her £111,994.95 ill-gotten gains can be confiscated from her for repayment to HSBC.

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