Bride jailed for diverting firm's cash to pay for wedding

 

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The Independent Online

A bride who stole up to £200,000 from her bosses to help pay for her lavish wedding was jailed for 20 months today.

Part-time accounts assistant Kirsty Lane, 30, channelled funds from her employer's bank account into her own and her future husband's.

Her fraud was uncovered just days after she married Graham Lane, 36, near Blackpool, Lancashire, in January last year.

Today Lane, of Lewis Close, Adlington, Lancashire, was sentenced at Preston Crown Court.

Passing sentence, Judge Pamela Badley said the "modest" first amounts of cash she stole from the company escalated and funded a luxury lifestyle.

Judge Badley said Lane's behaviour was "fraudulent from the outset", adding: "This was a cynical exploitation of the small company for which you worked."

As well as paying for a lavish wedding which included a free bar, musicians, fireworks, a magician and face-painting, Lane also used the cash to pay for a number of home improvements at the couple's Adlington home, including items such as a 52in TV, a Tag Heuer watch, an iPod and personalised car registration plates.

Kirsten McAteer, opening the case for the prosecution, said: "Once she started stealing money, she couldn't stop. She was afraid Mr Lane would leave her when he found out the truth."

Lane's fraud was discovered by Peter Sutton, the managing director of Pure Audio Visual Ltd, for whom she worked.

There had been a complaint from a customer about an invoice which led him to investigate the company's finances.

Closer inspection revealed that Lane had been creating false invoices in order to siphon the company's cash into her own accounts.

Lane was sent a letter from the Leyland-based business which stated she had been suspended because of suspicions about her thieving when she returned from a three-day honeymoon break in the Lake District.

The court heard she made 122 payments to herself between December 2008 and January 2011.

Around £122,000 went into her own account, with £70,000 going into her husband's account and a further £6,000 paid into a third account.

The court was told that Mr Lane was acquitted of any wrongdoing after a retrial in May and that Lane herself had "exonerated" her husband of any wrongdoing.

The couple met in 2007 and Mr Lane had travelled up from his home in Luton to move in with the single parent and her daughter in August 2010.

She pleaded guilty last October to 10 counts of fraud by abuse of position and asked for a further 112 similar offences to be taken into consideration.

The court heard that Lane's fraud damaged the company, which then employed 18 people, at a time when it was struggling with "cashflow" issues, which resulted in two people being made redundant.

Miss McAteer said Lane had been a "trusted employee" and she had the main responsibility of looking after the company's accounts.

She said the company had paid her a good salary, bonuses and she even received a wedding present from her bosses, who at first wanted to believe there had been some sort of mistake.

Amanda Johnson, defending, said Lane was a woman of good character who suffered from low self-esteem and that the offending coincided with the time she met her husband.

"She felt that money and the trappings that money could buy would make her a more attractive proposition," Miss Johnson said.

She said Lane thought she could "make herself more attractive to him by having money and being able to spend it on gifts and holidays".

The court heard that Mr Lane believed the money was from savings, her salary and bonuses.

Giving evidence in her husband's first trial in February, Lane said: "He trusted me.

"He believed what I was telling him about the money.

"I was worried that he would leave me. We were struggling to make it work distance-wise at the start of the relationship.

"I was so desperate to keep him.

"I have hurt enough people. If I have got any hope of making any amends to my family, my husband, my daughter, everything has to be clear from the start.

"I cannot do that to people any more."

Lane had been employed at the firm since June 2007 and was in charge of processing customer and supplier payments, and staff wages.

Police said Lane also used the stolen cash to pay for items including iPhone covers, iPad covers, compact mirrors covered in Swarovski crystals, car keys covered in Swarovski crystals and wedding flowers.

Detective Constable Will Hogan, of Leyland CID, said: "Kirsty Lane abused her position of trust to steal from her employer and fund a lavish lifestyle.

"The consequences of her greedy and appalling behaviour have had a massive impact on this small company, which has been adversely affected by the loss of this huge sum of money.

"We take fraud extremely seriously and we are committed to thoroughly investigating any reports that we receive."

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Sutton said that, due to added tax and VAT payments, Lane had cost the company a total of around £300,000.

He said: "She was a trusted member of the team and she had been in that position for a number of years."

He said she defrauded the company in quite a complex way and there was no obvious "digital trail".

Mr Sutton went on: "Her actions could have had a massive effect on our business - and not only the business, but our families too. The livelihoods of 20-plus people could have been put in jeopardy."

He added: "We just wanted it over. It's the end of a traumatic time in our existence and the legal system has prevailed."

PA