'Woman's £4,500 fraud could have caused Bromsgrove firm to collapse'

By Carl Jackson Thursday 18 April 2013 Updated: 20/04 10:26

A WOMAN who stole more than £4,500 from her Bromsgrove employers could have caused the collapse of the company and cost 20 people their jobs, the firm has claimed.

Charlotte Griffin-Court, 31, and from Woodfields in Droitwich, was sentenced to a 12 month community order with 250 hours unpaid work at Redditch Magistrates Court on Wednesday (April 17).

She had previously pleaded guilty to the charge of theft by employee and was also ordered to pay back a total of £4,674.39 in compensation to Stoke Prior based Fire Safe Services.

Directors Nick and Louise Fenton told The Standard Griffin-Court's stealing could have led to the ten-year-old company going out of business if it had of gone undetected for much longer.

They added staff had still lost out on Christmas bonuses and, despite being awarded compensation, the company had still lost money on carrying out a costly investigation into the matter.

Griffin-Court, appointed as an accounts administrator at Fire Safe Services in June last year, had access to money coming in and out of the firm.

The court heard she impressed her employers so much she was given a pay rise on her initial starting salary of £18,000 within months before her 'unsophisticated' crimes began.

Suspicions were first raised when Mr Fenton noticed a laptop had been purchased without authorisation.

Griffin-Court said she intended to pay for it from her own wages when asked about it.

At this point he was 'perplexed' but still trusted her.

The court heard, however, a month later Mr Fenton noticed Griffin-Court had made several Ebay purchases with company money, which she claimed was an accident and she was supposed to pay for herself.

Mr Fenton, now highly suspicious of her, checked the wage bill at the end of the November and found she had reimbursed the company.

But he said he also discovered Griffin-Court had overpaid herself by nearly £1,000 for the month. When questioned she claimed the extra money was due to a Revenue and Customs adjustment.

When directors called a meeting with her on December 3 Griffin-Court resigned and walked out accusing them of 'talking down to her'.

A full investigation revealed she had overpaid herself in August, September and October as well as purchasing the laptop and paying off her outstanding council tax bills with company money.

When she was questioned by police she admitted her actions but disputed she had done anything dishonestly.

Mrs Fenton told The Standard: "She only admitted she had been stealing after a big investigation. That is the most hurtful part.

"She was getting braver and braver right under our noses. She was very good at her job and manipulated her position.

"Had we not found out, 20 people would be out of work. It makes you question who you can trust."

Mr Fenton added: "The sentence was the best possible conclusion.

"Now she's got a record she cannot do the same thing to anyone else that she has done to us."

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