A CROOKED employee stole more than £60,000 from her charity workplace in a two-year scam – then frittered some of her illicit gains on gambling and spending sprees.
Samantha Andrews siphoned tens of thousands of pounds from her employer into her own personal bank account.
The mum-of-four – a finance officer for Target Housing near Shalesmoor – spent the money on her family, the ‘odd minor spending spree’, and ‘occasional gambling’.
Sheffield Crown Court was told Andrews’s life had ‘spiralled out of control’ when her husband left her 10 years ago.
The judge, Recorder Martin Simpson, said Andrews committed a ‘significant breach of trust’ – but allowed her to walk free with a 12-month suspended jail term.
Recorder Simpson said she had ‘closely escaped’ going to prison.
In a statement released after the sentencing John Donmall-Hicks, chairman of the board for Target Housing, said Andrews had been dismissed and agreed to pay back the money.
He said: “It was a body blow for all involved in Target to discover earlier this year that one of our trusted staff in a key position had misappropriated a substantial sum of money.
“A charity like ours depends on the integrity of our staff, and we are deeply saddened to have suffered this gross breach of trust.”
He later added that finances had ‘recovered’ for ambitious future plans to continue but ‘emotionally the whole thing left all of us reeling’,
University-educated Andrews, who suffers osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and Crohn’s disease and walks with a stick, wept in the dock as the court heard the details of her scam.
She had a ‘high level of responsibility’ for the finances at Penistone Road-based Target Housing, an organisation which helps reintegrate vulnerable people, many former prisoners, into society. She kept the finance records, had control of the money and oversaw management accounts.
She was initially employed on a temporary basis, but was made permanent in November 2009, seven months after the thefts started.
Over two years, Andrews stole a total of £61,650 from Target on 19 separate occasions, the smallest amount being £721, Beverley Tait, prosecuting, said.
But an annual audit in May this year found irregularities in the accounts, and the auditor raised a query over a payment of just over £8,725.
“He couldn’t work out where it was supposed to be going or where it was from,” Ms Tait told the court. “It looked to be something to do with conveyancing.”
Andrews, off sick during part of the audit, was asked to look into the query on her first day back and immediately confessed to her boss.
She was then suspended, and in interview following her arrest told police she stole the money using online banking.
Vanessa Saxton, defending, said Andrews was ‘thoroughly remorseful’ and previously led a ‘blameless life’ with no convictions.
“Her life spiralled out of control when her husband left her unexpectedly in 2001,” Ms Saxton said.
Ms Saxton said Andrews risked losing her home and her 16-year-old son would be left without a carer if she were jailed.
Andrews, of Greave Way, Brimington, Chesterfield, admitted theft and was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years with 12 months’ supervision, as well as a six-month tag and curfew from 7pm to 7am.