November 25, 2019 3.18 pm This story is over 54 months old

Lincoln part-time accountant stole almost £90k for lavish lifestyle

She was taking three holidays a year but she was on a salary of £11,000

A part-time accountant who stole £87,000 from her employer has been jailed for two years and four months.

Elizabeth Cullen stole from B Eyre & Son, a car dealership in Tattershall, to buy clothes, holidays, a new kitchen as well as health and beauty treatment.

Philip Plant, prosecuting, said that Cullen lived a lifestyle way above what she could have afforded on her £11,000 salary as a part-time accounts worker for the company.

He told the court an indication of the extent over her thefts was that over a seven-year period she made just two cash withdrawals from her own bank account whereas she made 39 withdrawals in the six months after her thefts came to light.

Mr Plant said: “For 28 years this defendant was the part-time office and accounts clerk.

“She was a trusted and valued member of staff and had access to all the financial matters.

“Her salary was woefully inadequate for the lifestyle she wanted to live.

“She was using the company’s cash for shopping and living expenses. Her employer noted she was taking three holidays a year.

“In 2016 there was a holiday to America which cost £10,700. There was a new kitchen costing £5,000 and private health care for her son.

“A calendar showed 27 appointments for massages and facials between January and May 2017.

“The overall figure involved is £86,899.”

Mr Plant said that the thefts were uncovered by chance in the spring of 2017.

“Mr Eyre went to pay a cheque into the bank. He noticed that Cullen had left her own paying-in book inside the bag used for banking.

“It showed that she had been paying large amounts of cash into her account. He then discovered cheques were missing from the cheque book.”

As a result, Mr Eyre contacted the bank and Cullen resigned from her job the following day.

Subsequent investigations revealed that Cullen had been forging the owner’s signature on cheques which she used to withdraw cash from the company account.

Fraudulent entries were made in the company books to cover up what she was doing.

Cullen, 57, of Lancaster Drive, Coningsby, admitted two charges of theft between January 2010 and May 2017.

She also admitted money laundering between January 2004 and May 2017.

She was jailed for 28 months. A hearing to consider confiscation of her assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act was adjourned to next year.

Recorder Mark Watson, passing sentence, told her: “This was nothing more than greed. You spent the money on items of extravagance.

“You were able to do all of this because of the degree of trust placed in you. You were effectively given free reign over the money the business brought in.

“What you did was to write your own cheques.”

Tara McCarthy, in mitigation, urged that any prison sentence should be suspended.

“She has no previous convictions. She had debts and was living beyond her means. Things got out of hand.”

Miss McCarthy said that the thefts have put a severe strain on Cullen’s marriage and she has suffered anxiety and depression.