‘PURE greed’ drove a Long Lawford woman to steal more than £160,000 from her employers – but she was finally caught after trying to access their accounts system from her laptop while she was on maternity leave.
But although Helen Wright did not consider the possible consequences for her child at the time, a judge was asked to do so when sentencing her.
And it was the effect it would have on her baby that saved her from prison after she had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to fraud in abuse of a position of trust.
Instead Wright, 41, of Welland Close, Long Lawford, was given a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years and was ordered to do 300 hours of unpaid work and to take part in a probation programme.
Prosecutor Andrew Tucker said Wright worked for technology company Eaton Industries in Warwick.
Her £54,000-a-year job as a plant controller saw her deal with purchases, sales and the expenses of other members of staff, meaning she had access to the company’s bank accounts.
But on 28 occasions between April 2011 and September last year Wright paid various amounts totalling £161,627 from Eaton Industries into her own account.
The company – which had launched an investigation ‘at a relatively early stage’ in 2011, ultimately costing over £250,000 – did not discover who was responsible until September last year, when Wright, on maternity leave, tried to pay herself £4,800 via her laptop.
When she was arrested Wright admitted what she had been doing, although she claimed she had only taken £80,000 dishonestly and that other payments had been legitimate expenses claims.
Mr Tucker pointed out that was something Eaton Industries do not accept, and they have started civil proceedings against her for the full amount.
Recorder Abigail Nixon asked whether there had been any voluntary repayment, and was told there had not.
Paul O’Keefe, defending, said the civil proceedings were still ongoing, and Wright has sold her home and the £18,000 equity has been set aside pending the outcome of that.
Recorder Nixon observed that Wright began taking money because of her and her husband’s spiralling debts, but commented: “That was about £60,000. What happened to the rest?”
Mr O’Keefe 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 the frauds began at a time when Wright’s husband, who was kept in the dark about what she was doing, was made redundant in 2011 and then started his own business as a draftsman, in which business was slow at first.
Accepting Wright was in ‘a great deal of difficulty,’ Mr O’Keefe said she was desperate to retain her liberty.
For 14 years she had been trying to have a child, and after suffering two miscarriages, she gave birth last year; and if she was jailed her husband would have to give up his work to care for the baby, he added.
Sentencing Wright, Recorder Nixon told her: “You face the very real possibility of going to prison.
“You were in a position of responsibility. It seems to me it was out of pure greed that you decided to use those systems to line your own pocket; and not just once, but over a two-and-a-half-year period you made 28 transactions.
“I am told you had racked up debts of over £60,000 – but 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 the situation where your child is so very young and dependent on you, and had I not been told that your husband would have to give up work and put your family back in the situation they were in before, I would have sent you to prison without any hesitation whatsoever.”