Bookkeeper Helen Roberts jailed for stealing from R&B Engineering in Dover
Mum-of-three Helen Roberts was regarded as one of the family at R&B Engineering – a small firm based in Dover.
She had been their bookkeeper for six years and was so trusted that bosses gave her a company credit card and bank book.
And even when the firm, based in Poulton Business Park, struggled to cope with the economic downturn and the needed to cut workers' hourly rates to keep trading...she was included in the discussions.
But the 49-year-old was keeping more than the company's books...she was keeping their cash, too...while nursing a twisted belief that she undervalued!
R&B bosses - who were battling to keep trading - didn’t realise at that time that the corrupt Roberts was partly the reason the firm was struggling financially.
Now a judge at Canterbury Crown Court has heard that she used the credit card to buy fuel for her husband and daughter; salted £8,000 from the company into her private account; bought computers, garden fencing, a shower... and even a dog basket using the company’s money.
Roberts, who admitted charges of theft and fraud, cost the company £14,413.75 in a nine-month period in 2011.
Bosses said they had regarded Roberts “as their friend” and were “shocked beyond belief by her calculating and callous thefts and fraud.”
And when lawyers put a hold on her private bank account they discovered more than £15,000 sitting there.
Even then, the devious bookkeeper asked the judge what her likely sentence would be before agreeing to enter guilty verdicts.
The case was heard by Judge Heather Norton
Probation officers then explored the possibility of a suspended sentence together with performing hours of unpaid work for the community as a punishment.
But Roberts, who has since moved to Sommerton, claimed she was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and couldn’t do the work because of her medication.
Judge Heather Norton retorted that she had been able to work for many years, drive her car and carry out the thefts.
Although she was told she wouldn’t be punished for not doing the unpaid work, she was sent to prison for 10 months!
Prosecutor Edmund Burge said Roberts was employed in 2005 as a part-time bookkeeper but two years later was given a company credit card and authority to manage the family firm’s accounts.
But last year, directors became alarmed that her petrol account had shot up from an average of £250 a month to £712.
"They made enquiries at the petrol station and discovered Roberts had been putting fuel into her daughter’s and her husband’s cars," he added.
That led to a review of the company’s accounts and a realisation she had been paying herself in excess of her working hours, together with making unexplained bank transfers.
Thomas Quinn, defending, said: “No matter how much she felt overworked and others appeared to be doing better than her and no matter how disgruntled she may have felt, she now knows what she did was wrong and doesn’t justify her actions.
“She was under a considerable amount of stress at the time.”
But Judge Norton told her that she had been “completely trusted” by the directors and had told lies when confronted about the missing money.
“You then blamed your employers for the fact you had taken their money because you thought what they paid you was inadequate.
"You didn’t have financial problems, you just resented your employers and just took the money.”
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