A Leeds company secretary plundered almost £800,000 from her firm’s accounts and spent it on a lavish lifestyle - including building herself a horse arena and blowing £25,000 on her daughter’s sixteen birthday party.
Colette Wilson, 48, was jailed for four years today (Sept 8) over the deception carried out while working for a Leeds-based IT solution company.
Leeds Crown Court heard Wilson abused her position over an eight year period as company secretary and financial controller of Boxing Orange.
During that time Wilson was paid annual salaries ranging between £29,000 and £45,000 but stole from the company out of greed for a life of luxury.
David Dixon, prosecuting, said Wilson’s offending came to light in 2011 and police conducted and investigation which revealed she had spent £71,976 on a horse area. The prosecutor added: “No expense was spared on the project.”
It was also revealed that Wilson had paid £38,896 into a Belgian bank account to pay for a horse.
Around £25,000 was spent on an extension to her then home on Troydale Lane, Pudsey.
Wilson was also a regular customer at a car dealership, including spending £67,000 on a Range Rover.
She also spent thousands at a designer clothes store and paid for regular beauty salon treatments for her and her daughter.
The court also heard Wilson paid £25,000 to “take over” the Crowne Plaza hotel in Leeds to throw a lavish party for her daughter’s 16th birthday.
Wilson began working for the company in 2003 on the recommendation of a friend.
She hid from the directors the fact that she had served a previous prison sentence in 1997 for stealing from an employer.
Mr Dixon said Wilson had “total control” over the company’s finances and was heavily relied upon by the directors. Soon after she began working for the company she spotted that they had been a victim of fraud worth £200,000. The directors were able to recover the money and she became well regarded by her employers.
But her own offending came to light in 2010 when Boxing Orange was taken over by another company, Accumuli Plc, and an audit was carried out.
It was discovered that Wilson had paid large sums of the company’s money into her own bank account and the accounts of members of her family.
She had also manipulated documents in a bid to cover her tracks.
When challenged about the money, she initially tried to blame others and put the company directors under suspicion.
She was dismissed for gross misconduct in July 2011 and police were informed.
When interviewed by police she told officers that the directors were “in awe” of her and she was the best employee that had ever had.
Mr Dixon said the total amount stolen from the company was £788,340. She had since repaid just £119,992.
Wilson, now of Gilcroft Farm, Church Lane, Otley, pleaded guilty to one offence of theft from employer.
Gillian Batts, mitigating, said Wilson was sorry and ashamed of what she had done. She said the married mother-of-two had not been to face up to her offending and not told her family about her court appearance.
Wilson appeared in court yesterday afternoon after a warrant was issued for arrest. She failed to appear for her sentencing hearing in the morning, claiming she had no one to look after her dogs.
Jailing her, Recorder Timothy Gittins said: “What you gave with one hand, you took surreptitiously took away with the other on a grand scale over many years.”
Referring to the party she threw for her daughter, he said: “No doubt she was delighted at the time but she would be horrified to find that such a celebration was funded by your dishonesty.”