A HIGH-FLYING company financial director earning £50,000-a-year conned her employers out of more than £28,000.
Sarah Elizabeth Thorneycroft, 26, hired a Range Rover for herself at a cost of £17,200 to the firm.
She used company funds to pay a £5,000 bill to repair her own Jaguar and spent company cash on music downloads, computer software and paying off her credit cards.
Mold Crown Court heard how her employers – Axiom Metering Solutions on the Wrexham Industrial Estate – were aware that she had personal issues in her life and tried to help her.
They gave her time off and brought in a former financial director to do her work – at extra cost to them.
But he found there were irregularities in the accounts.
Thorneycroft, of Laurel Farm, Long Lane in Haughton, Cheshire – now working as a tractor driver – admitted fraud and the theft of a box van from her employers.
Judge Philip Hughes – who was told her grandfather had paid £5,000 compensation on her behalf – gave her a two-year prison sentence suspended for 18 months. She must also work 220 hours unpaid work.
The judge said that she was in a position of trust but she had breached that trust.
“You effectively stole £28,000 over four months,” he said.
“This amounts to a serious breach of trust. What is particularly serious about this case is that your employers did their very best to try and help you with your personal problems.
“They made allowances for you and did their best to support you. But you took advantage of them.”
She had offended during a period of financial crisis in her life.
The judge said she had offered to pay compensation at £100 a month – that it would take so long to pay the money back that such an order would be pointless.
However, the company could sue her for the outstanding amount.
Emmalyne Downing, prosecuting, said Thorneycroft was financial controller for P. H. Jones Ltd, a family firm, which later became Axiom Metering Solutions.
When the financial director moved on, she was promoted into that job with a £50,000 salary.
But her performance suffered, a supplier had not been paid and so the company offered paid leave in order to help her.
But it rapidly became clear to the man brought in to help that there were financial irregularities.
An invoice for the hire of the Range Rover was found and other unauthorised payments were discovered.
An investigation followed and the defendant had accepted a total fraud of £28,632.
The company gave her an opportunity to come up with a repayment plan but she failed to do so and the police were called in.
Henry Hills, defending, said she had been going through the emotional turmoil of a marriage breakdown, her grandmother who had cared for her since she was a child had been ill and her mother had died.
Thorneycroft had turned to alcohol and, with hindsight, the level of responsibility she held in the company had been too great for her.
She felt a sense of guilt and shame at what she had done.