Accountant from village near Grantham stole £42,000 from her friend’s business

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An accountant who stole over £42,000 from a friend’s one-man business has been spared jail because she has sold her house to pay him back.

Angela Watt, 49, of Main Street, Little Humby, had pleaded guilty earlier to ten specimen charges of false accounting but she had paid money to herself 33 times, Cambridge Crown Court was told.

Watt, who had her own accountancy business, began working for Steven Giles Flooring Ltd of Cambridgeshire in August 2008.

She looked after his invoices and banking and was trusted to pay herself £25 an hour – £100 a day.

However, the court was told that Mr Giles became puzzled in April 2011 about why his business was not making the profit he expected. When arrested, Watt, who was in financial difficulties because the recession had reduced the number of her clients, claimed the money she took was in the form of loans, for which she had permission.

Watt, a wife and mother of two, pleaded guilty to ten offences between 19 December 2008 and 28 May 2011 of falsifying computerised accounting systems by omitting that payments had been made to various bank accounts. The sums ranged from £1,450 to £3,112.

Prosecutor Jonathan Seely said Mr Giles noticed an irregularity on an electronic banking payment.

On one occasion in April 2011 Mr Giles had to pay £10,000 of his own money into the account because it went into the red. Shortly after, Watt took £1,495 from the account.

When her employer tackled her about that payment, Watt said it was a mistake and repaid £1,300 immediately. Mr Giles discovered ten more payments, totalling £16,743. He informed police and Watt was arrested on 31 August last year.

Mitigating, Mark Shelley said Watt had sold the family home and kept back £30,000 to repay Mr Giles. She had already reimbursed £4,015 and arrangements could be made for the remainder. The family now lived in rented accommodation.

Mr Shelley said: “She has done what she can to make sure the company is repaid by selling her house.”

He added: “She is genuinely remorseful. She says her actions are unforgiveable.”

Judge Jonathan Haworth imposed a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for two years with an order to complete 250 hours unpaid work.

He told her: “For a lengthy period you were taking money from the accounts and I’m quite sure it started up with the thought you could borrow the money but then of course you didn’t have the money to repay. And because you had done it once, it became so easy to do it again and again.”

The judge said he had taken into account good character, family commitments and that she had put money aside, so it was appropriate to suspend her prison sentence.