Fraudster’s £77,000 Leeds PR firm rip-off

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AN accountant used £77,000 of her employer’s cash after being trusted to run the finances of a Leeds public relations firm.

Emma Powell abused the trust placed in her by the directors of Finn Communications by plundering the company’s accounts.

She was handed a suspended prison sentence and today Finn PR branded it as “disappointing”.

Leeds Crown Court heard Powell, 33, was a freelance accountant with her own business at the time she was hired to work for the company, based on Foundry Street, in June 2011.

Mehran Nassiri, prosecuting, said Powell was provided with the company cheque book and had complete access to the internet banking.

The offending took place for more than two years until she left the firm in October 2013.
Sums ranging from as little as £42 to as much as £4,480 were transferred from the company account to her own personal bank account.

Powell insisted on working part-time and the directors hired a book keeper to work alongside her.

She left soon after discrepancies in the firm’s accounts were discovered.

Powell, of Providence Street, Cleckheaton, was arrested and admitted she had taken the money to pay off debts.

She pleaded guilty to fraud. 
Charlotte Eastwood, mitigating, said Powell had no previous convictions and had admitted the offence at an early stage.

She said: “She was suffering from a relationship breakdown and the debt that came with it.

“It spiralled out of control and she is truly ashamed.”

The court heard Powell had managed to raise £36,000, which could be paid back to the company.

Recorder David Dobbin said: “This is a serious matter.

“It is a question of breach of trust.

“You were a person who was engaged to look after these matters for the company.

“You did not do that, but helped yourself to a substantial sum of money.”

Powell was given a two year prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 250 hours unpaid work.

She was also ordered to pay £36,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Powell must pay the sum within 28 days or face a prison sentence of up to 18 months.

Richard Rawlings, managing director for Finn, said: “We are disappointed with the sentence.

“Powell abused a position of trust and defrauded a small business to fund an extravagant lifestyle.

“We hope that we are the only victims and that none of her other clients have suffered the same fate.

“Finn PR continues to be a thriving and profitable business and we now look forward to carrying on our success in 2015 and beyond.”