A SHEFFIELD housing company employee stole more than £60,000 over two years while responsible for the firm’s finances, a court heard this week.
Samantha Andrews, aged 48, transferred money belonging to Target Housing, based in Penistone Road, into her personal bank account.
The mother-of-four was caught when an annual audit found irregularities in the accounts but she ‘closely escaped’ going to prison on Monday after the court was told her life ‘spiralled out of control’ when her husband left her 10 years ago and that, apart from the “odd minor spending spree and occasional gambling”, the money was used to support her family.
The judge, Recorder Martin Simpson, said Andrews had committed a “significant breach of trust” but allowed her to walk free with a 12-month suspended jail term.
Beverley Tait, prosecuting, said university-educated Andrews kept the finance records, had control of the money and oversaw management accounts at Target Housing, which helps reintegrate former prisoners into society.
“She had a high level of responsibility,” said Ms Tait.
Andrews, who suffers from osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and Crohn’s disease and walks with a stick, wept in the dock as details of her offences were outlined.
She was employed on a temporary basis but was made permanent in November 2009, seven months after the thefts started. Earlier at Target, she also worked one day a week at Sheffield Cathedral dealing with its finances.
Over the two years, Andrews stole a total of £61,650 over 19 separate occasions. When the auditor visited Target last May, he queried a payment of £8,725. “He couldn’t work out where it was supposed to be going or where it was from,” said Ms Tait. “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 an interview following her arrest told police she stole the money using online banking facilities.
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. His behaviour has been less than good. He initially refused to divorce Mrs Andrews, he prevaricated, he made it difficult and didn’t pay maintenance correctly.”
Ms Saxton added: “There seemed to be no reason why this period of offending started. She fully suspected that these matters would come to light during the audit. There was an element of great surprise that she acted in the way that she did.”
Andrews risked losing her home and her 16-year-old son would be left without a carer if she was jailed. Recorder Simpson said she “closely escaped” going to prison.
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 being given a six-month tag and curfew from 7pm to 7am.