25th Oct, 2020

Bromsgrove woman who defrauded her employers of £451,000 is jailed and must pay back the cash

A BROMSGROVE woman who defrauded her employer out of £451,000 has been jailed and ordered to pay back every penny.

Joanne Collins, formerly of Green Park Road, worked as the office and accounts manager at the family-run then Kidderminster-based firm Serfis Construction and Engineering Limited in 2011.

The 53-year-old had sole responsibility for managing payments in and out of the company’s accounts, as well as imputting account details into the business’ system.

In 2018 concerns were raised about payments to companies who Serfis did not do business with and it was found Collins had made payments to three fake companies which then went to her own bank account.

It was ascertained she stole the £451k between 2012 and 2018.

She was dismissed in December 2018 and charged with with Fraud by Abuse of Position of Trust in October 2019.

On the December 5, 2019, at Hereford Crown Court the defendant was convicted of the offence.

Prior to the discovery, and due to the length of time she had been at the company, Collins was a trusted member of staff and treated like part of the family.

She was given her own company credit card, car and was able to sign cheques for the business.

A fortnight ago at Worcester Crown Court, HHJ Burbidge sentenced Collins to three years and eight months behind bars.

A Confiscation Order, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, was also made, whereby Collins’ benefit figure from the crime was agreed to be £451,601.61.

The amount Collins was found to have available was £117,457.52; this amount was made up entirely from the sale of Collins’ Bromsgrove house.

A Compensation Order was made to Serfis Construction and Engineering Limited – which is now based in Stourbridge – for the full amount.

Collins was given two months to pay the £117K, otherwise she will be sentenced to a further two years imprisonment, in default of payment.

Det Insp Emma Wright, of the Economic Crime Unit, West Mercia Police, said, “The sentence imposed upon Collins reflects the severity of her crime and the abuse of the trust placed in her by her employers.

“This outcome is testament to a thorough criminal investigation by officers from the Criminal Investigation Department in North Worcestershire.

“In addition to the custodial sentence, Collins has been stripped of the trappings of her crime by powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act, as a result of a financial investigation by West Mercia Police Economic Crime Unit.

“A Confiscation Order imposed, means she must pay the victims back £117K, or face further time in prison.

“This order goes some way to compensate Serfis Construction and Engineering, a family run business, who have been impacted significantly by the criminal conduct of Collins.

“Furthermore, should Collins be found to have further assets in the future, she will be required to pay these back, until the total amount of £451K has been satisfied.

“This case demonstrates that those who commit serious fraud will be tackled by West Mercia Police; both by bringing them to justice and by removing the proceeds of the crimes, to compensate victims.”

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