A MEDICAL secretary who masterminded a £10,000 refund scam has been ordered to pay back every penny she made from her crimes.
Tracey Scott bulk-bought cheap household appliances from car boot sales and online, then used forged receipts to con cashiers into giving her refunds for them at Argos stores across the UK.
The 48-year-old mum, of Rose Avenue, Fence Houses, told police she started the fraud to cope with mounting debts – but had boasted to pals via email about luxury holidays to Florida and Jamaica.
She pleaded guilty in March to two fraud charges and was given a 10-month suspended prison sentence with 150 hours’ unpaid work.
Now, her case has been back at Newcastle Crown Court for a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act where she was ordered to pay all of the money back or go to jail.
Prosecutor Michael Graham told the court financial investigators have uncovered details of her having more than £100,000 in assets which include equity in a house, a jeep, a caravan and cash, and made an application for her to be ordered to pay back the full £10,000 she made through her dishonesty.
Mr Graham said: “There are realisable assets of £109,000, therefore it is not a case in which there is any difficulty in terms of the ability to satisfy an order in the sum of £10,000.
“This is a case in which the prosecution would invite that the £10,000 is paid by way of compensation to the losers in this case, which is Argos Ltd.”
The court heard despite efforts by her legal team to get in touch, Scott has not responded to their letters and was not in court for the hearing.
Her barrister Tony Hawks said: “She has been written to on six occasions telling her to attend the office to discuss the matter and she has not.
“It seems to me, were she to be here, she would have to be advised she could not quibble or complain in any way with the order sought.”
Judge David Wood made an order which means Scott must pay £10,000 within six months or face six months in jail.
The judge said if Scott has fled from the area prosecutors can still seize and sell her home to get the money back.
Judge Wood said: “I can formally declare the defendant has benefited in the sum of £10,000 and the available assets are £109,000.
“Accordingly, I can make a compensation order in the sum of £10,000, with a period of six months in default if it is not paid within six months.”
Judge Wood said Argos should receive the full sum in compensation.
The judge said: “Hopefully Argos will make their refunds a little bit more difficult in future.”
Northumbria Police Detective Chief Inspector Lisa Orchard, said: “We are pleased with the outcome of the confiscation hearing which clearly demonstrates that crime does not pay. Anyone found making money from fraud or any other types of crime will be caught and dealt with appropriately by the courts.”