AN award winning accountant who fleeced her employer of almost £100,000 during a five-year deception has been jailed.
Sharon Eyre, 52, was sentenced to two years after pleaded guilty to defrauding Leeds firm Tropicana Interior Landscaping.
Leeds Crown Court heard Eyre abused the trust placed in her by company owner Sue Graham and continued to steal despite her offending putting the firm in serious financial jeopardy.
Mrs Graham had to sell jewellery, company vehicles and take money out of her pension to keep the business afloat as a result of Eyre’s deception.
Andrew Horton, prosecuting, said Eyre was a self-employed book keeper and worked part time at the company from 2007.
The prosecutor said the company, based at Leodis Court, near to Leeds city centre, was established in 1986 and had an annual turnover of around £300,000, employing six members of staff.
He said: “She was described by the complainant as becoming a good a friend and she had no reason to think her untrustworthy.”
From May 2007 until the deception came to light earlier this year Eyre had been paid £150,000 in wages.
Mrs Graham contacted police after she became concerned when she noticed serious discrepancies in the company accounts.
Investigations revealed Eyre had paid a total of £98,992 into her own bank account.
Mr Horton said Eyre had written out 29 company cheques her herself. She would also pay invoices twice - with one amount being paid to a supplier and the same amount then being paid into her own account.
The court heard that by 2011, Eyre knew the firm was struggling financially because Mrs Graham had to sell personal jewellery and put the money into the company.
In 2013 she also had to release £30,000 from her pension and sell two vans to help with cash flow.
In a statement provided to the court, Mrs Graham said: “It was an horrendous year with the HMRC knocking at my door.”
The company was also under pressure to make VAT payments and had a letter from a bailiff.
Other members of staff had to have their working hours reduced and could not be given a pay rise.
Mrs Graham added: “I feel totally and utterly betrayed. For nearly 30 years I have worked and built up a business. I thought she was my friend.”
Police searched Eyre’s home in Wakefield and found expensive branded goods including watches and handbags.
She admitted to police that she had been stealing money from her employer because she felt under pressure to provide for her two daughters.
Eyre, of Cobbler Hall, West Bretton, pleaded guilty to fraud.
Lindsey Lobley, mitigating, said Eyre had felt pressure to provide for her two daughters and grandchildren after they had financial problems.
Miss Lobley said that her elderly parents also replied heavily upon her.
She added: “I would hope that the court will bear in mind the significant impact (prison) would have on her family. She has a significant number of dependants who require her assistance.”
Jailing Eyre, Recorder Ray Singh said: “No doubt you were under financial pressure and your children were relying upon you but those are pressures that every parent who is working in these very difficult times have to undergo. But they do not engage in criminal activity as you chose to do so.”
“There was an abuse of your position of power and trust and responsibility for a small employer.”
Eyre’s business, Accounting 4, is listed online as “an energetic business offering bookkeeping and payroll to clients throughout the local area.”
The company, set-up in 2001, offers to help clients to keep up to date with accounts and payroll and help provide VAT calculations and self assessment.
The website states: “The company delivers reliable services that are accurate and timely. The services are unique to individual companies, making them perfect for a wide range of customers, and they are available throughout England.”
In 2014, Eyre’s firm won an award for Most Innovative Accounting Firm at an annual awards by BookkeepingAwards.co,uk
The award acknowledges “innovation in the profession, as voted for by book-keepers, accountants and fellow professionals.”