A finance assistant has been jailed after stealing £100,000 from her employer to finance an “Instagram lifestyle”.
Laura Howarth, 41, stole “every week” from British Independent Utilities in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire.
Preston Crown Court heard that he bought a white SUV, hair extensions and VIP concert tickets using the stolen money, copying the lifestyle of other glamorous women, including his boss’s wife, and posting the results of his spending on Instagram. .
The mother-of-two was earning more than £900 a month and owed “a couple of thousand” on payday loans.
The court heard that she only stopped stealing from her bosses when she went on vacation or maternity leave.
Howarth, of Devona Avenue, Blackpool, even applied for credit card limit extensions to allow him to steal up to £6,000 a month. When the thefts came to light in August 2018, he claimed that he had shared the money with his co-workers.
However, jailing her for 10 months for theft, Judge Richard Gioserano told her: “You stole a great deal of money to provide a lifestyle you couldn’t afford, a glimpse of which can be seen on your Instagram account.” .
Howarth was hired by the company in 2013 and asked to be in charge of petty cash and expense accounts.
Prosecutor Stuart Neale said she began stealing “almost immediately.” In August of that year, she withdrew £50 from a Royal Bank of Scotland ATM, despite the company’s ban on cash withdrawals.
He then added the money to a legitimate expense claim when he entered it into Sage’s accounting system, so the books would appear to balance.
Realizing he could get away with it, Howarth went on to withdraw an average of £3,000 a month.
In November 2016, he spent £6,000 of company money in one month, the court heard. But in August 2018, financial controller Chris Russell was reviewing the company’s credit cards and discovered that one, used by Howarth, had been used to withdraw cash.
Later he found a credit card statement on his desk. An investigation was launched and Howarth was suspended from her job. That night, she sent a WhatsApp message to her employer and said, “I’m sorry about everything.”
Russ Priestley, owner of British Independent Utilities, said: “I have worked over 100 hours a week, sacrificing social time and time with my family to build this business.
“These events have made me question my choices and fundamentally make me see people differently.”
He said he had suspicions about Howarth when he saw her driving a new Kia Sportage.
On another occasion, having spent £500 on a ticket to see his favorite comedian on stage in Manchester, Priestly was surprised to see Howarth and her husband sitting in the back row.
Anthony Parkinson, defending, said his client had always been a hard worker and had no prior convictions. His wider family would feel the impact of his offense, he said.
In sentencing Howarth, Judge Gioserano said: “You tried to hide your thefts with false accounting, and you did so over a long period of time.
“Not only did you cover your tracks, but you increased the card limit so you could steal more.
“He tried to blame others in the sense that he said that what he had withdrawn he had given to other employees, and that was a very limited group.
Above all, he accepts that he stole this money not to alleviate genuine financial hardship, not to pay for treatment at a private hospital for a sick member of his family, but to finance a lifestyle he could not otherwise afford. honest, hard-working people work hard to try to pay for this, and if they can’t afford it that way, they just take it. They don’t resort to theft to fund it.”