A TRUSTED office manager who pocketed £18,000 of her company’s cash has walked free from court.
Julie Dowell took money from the safe at Hays Credit in Vine Place, Sunderland, and put it in her own bank account.
The 46-year-old, who had worked at the firm for 20 years, then covered her tracks by producing a fraudulent paper trial.
The married mum, who has never been in trouble before, was collared when the company owner checked the firm’s financial records while she was on holiday.
Her scam left her shocked colleagues afraid the finger of blame would be pointed at them.
Dowell, of Martindale Avenue, Seaburn, admitted fraud when she was arrested on return from holiday and said she did it to cope with crippling debts.
Prosecutor Michael Bunch told the court: “Her method was simply to remove cash from the safe and go straight to the local bank and pay the money into her own account then carry out the cover-up thereafter.”
The court heard when staff rotas were checked, they showed Dowell was the only one working on the 19 occasions cash had been taken.
Judge Robert Adams sentenced Dowell to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with supervision.
The judge told her: “When you went on holiday it became apparent an £18,000 deficiency existed in the company finances.
“It was inevitable, when you went away for any period of leave, this was going to be discovered and that is exactly what happened.
“The fact other people were working there was significant, no doubt each thought they might be blamed for what happened.”
The judge said he accepted Dowell was sorry.
The court heard despite Dowell’s chance to keep her freedom, her family home is now under threat due to the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Mr Bunch added: “A restraint order in respect of the matrimonial home was served yesterday, that appears to be the only asset there is.”
Shaun Routledge, defending, said Dowell’s family had no idea of the financial struggles she was facing or what she was doing to try and control them.
Mr Routledge added: “All of the debts are now being dealt with. She has been proactive, she has had to tell her husband.”
Mr Routledge said Dowell has found new work in a bid to sort out her finances.