AN accountant who stole almost £200,000 from the luxury shoe firm where she was in charge of the finances has been jailed.
Dale Ballance, 44, paid for a ‘lavish and decadent’ wedding to her husband and also bought a racehorse out of her ill-gotten gains.
Ballance was jailed for three-and-a-half years over the two-year deception which she carried out while working for Leeds-based upmarket shoe and handbag firm Moda in Pelle.
The company has shops across the UK, including Leeds’s Victoria Quarter. Leeds Crown Court heard Ballance began working for the company as management accountant in 2008, with a starting salary on £40,000
She was also allowed to carry on operating her private accountancy firm at the same time.
A jury heard Ballance the managed to persuade her employers to up her annual pay to £50,000. Ballance, of Manor Park Avenue, Allerton Bywater, near Leeds, carried out a “bold and calculated” series of thefts from the company between May 2009 and March 2011.
The deception enabled her to buy a half share in a racehorse called Sharadiyn for her husband. She also paid for a lavish wedding which included a ring-bearing owl called Olly and seven bridesmaids in what was described by the prosecution as a ”lavish and decadent affair.”
Ballance also bought two wedding dresses and had no idea how much either of them cost
The court heard she abused the trust placed in her by making cheques out to herself. The deception came to light when she left the company after her employers refused to give her another pay rise.
Ballance continued to deny the offending and claimed the money was part of a ‘secret bonus system’ which had been set up by her employers. She also accused her former bosses of committing perjury when they gave evidence at her trial. The jury rejected her claims and found her guilty of three offences of theft.
Judge Guy Kearl, QC, told Ballance: “This was systematic and persistent removal of a considerable amount of money. You were in a position of trust.
“Instead of repaying that trust with loyalty you manipulated the accounting ledgers in order to cover up your stealing.
“You did that by posting false entries in the ledgers so that the thefts could not be discovered after you left.
“Even when you were discovered, you lied to the other directors when they sought to meet to resolve the matters. You lied to the police and you lied to the jury.”
The court heard the offending took place when Moda in Pelle was struggling financially.
The judge added: “The money was spent in my judgement on a high standard of living. You spent some of the money on what was described as a lavish wedding. There can be no doubt it was one where many people attended. Some of the money would have gone towards that and what you spent on a racehorse which you obtained and then ran.”
Ballance’s barrister, Charles Blatchford, said his client still denied the offending. He said Ballance had lost her home and was £19,000 in debt.
Mr Blatchford described Ballance as the main breadwinner and her husband he would suffer as a result of the convictions.
The barrister added: “She will leave prison and will have no job, no home, and no prospects as a middle-aged woman.”
Ballance now faces further court hearings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.