A Leeds finance manager who abused her position to steal £63,000 from the children’s nursery company where she worked has been jailed for two years.
Stacey Sweeting, 33, carried out the ‘sophisticated’ fraud over a three year period while she was in charge of finances at Leeds-based company Sunbeams.
Sweeting abused the company’s credit card and Amazon accounts as well as writing cheques to herself and keeping money which parents had paid for their children’s care.
Leeds Crown Court heard Sweeting also stole charity cash which had been collected to raise funds for the NSPCC as well as funds saved for a staff Christmas party.
After being arrested police discovered Sweeting, of Kendal Drive, Halton, Leeds, had blown £48,000 on online gambling.
The court heard Sweeting showed little remorse for her actions and told staff: “It’s not like I murdered somebody”.
James Gelsthorpe, prosecuting, said Sunbeams had two nurseries in Leeds, in Austhorpe and Halton, and one in Harrogate and looked after around 500 children.
Sweeting began working for the company as a nursery nurse in 2001 and was “loved and trusted” by the company’s owners and her colleagues.
She was promoted several times before committing the offences when she became the finance manager.
Sweeting used computer software to conceal her offending by manipulating the figures being paid in and out of the company’s accounts.
During the deception she managed to write a total of 113 cheques to herself totalling £40,000.
She also stole around £13,000 in cash.
The deception came to light when Sweeting was away and it was discovered that she had used the company’s Amazon account to order herself a widescreen TV.
An investigation led to the discovery of much more serious offending.
Sweeting was arrested and initially claimed her employer was lying about the amounts stolen in a bid to deceive insurers.
She pleaded guilty to two offences of fraud, theft and false accounting.
Mr Gelsthorpe read a victim statement to the court on behalf of Sunbeams owner Kathryn Plews. She stated: “She (Sweeting) is a highly intelligent and manipulative individual.
“She showed no remorse and continued to lie.”
The statement described how she had said to colleagues after her arrest: “It’s not like I have murdered someone.”
Thomas Stanway, mitigating, said Sweeting’s gambling addiction “crept up on her” after she began playing bingo with friends and family.
Mr Stanway said Sweeting then progressed to online gambling which she saw as a way of coping with anxiety and depression.
He said Sweeting was now attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings to tackle her addiction.
Jailing Sweeting, judge Tom Bayliss, QC, said: “It was a very responsible position and a good job, but you used it to steal from your employers.
“Stealing and fraud on this level by your employer when you were in a high degree of trust, over a long period of time, has to be marked with an immediate prison sentence.”
After the case, a spokesman for Sunbeams said: “It has been a difficult period for the company but we can now move forward with our future and our main priority, which is to provide exceptional childcare for pre-school children.”