Sunderland office manager ordered to pay back £18,000

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A TRUSTED office manager who pocketed £18,000 of her company’s cash has been ordered by a judge to pay it all back.

Julie Dowell took money from the safe at Hays Credit in Vine Place, Sunderland, and put it in her own bank.

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.

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.

She was spared jail over the scam when she appeared at court in March, and her case was back before a judge yesterday who said every penny must be paid back.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act Judge Robert Adams said Dowell benefited by £18,000 and must repay the same amount back from her assets.

The court heard at the last hearing her scam left her shocked colleagues afraid the finger of blame would be pointed at them.

Prosecutor Michael Bunch said: “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 therafter.”

The court heard when staff rotas were checked, they showed Dowell was the only one working on the 19 occasions cash had been taken.

At the previous hearing Judge 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.

Shaun Routledge, defending, said Dowell’s family had no idea of the financial struggles she was facing or what she was doing to try to 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.”