Published: 09:07, 20 March 2017
A valued member of an Ashford family firm betrayed their trust and secretly pocketed £100,000.
But when devious Donna Hartshorne’s four-year deceit was finally exposed, she claimed she used the money on buying a pressure cooker and a new oven!
Now the 37-year-old thief, from Cross Stile, Ashford, has been jailed for 18 months after admitting stealing from an employer.
Prosecutor Paul Valder told Canterbury Crown Court how Hartshorne kept her pilfering a secret by covering up the missing money as payments as payments for utilities.
It was only when she was off work for six weeks with neck and back problems, her bosses at Glass Services in Wotton Road, Kingsnorth Industrial Estate discovered the extent of her duplicity and betrayal.
Now Judge Simon James has told her: “This wasn’t a cry for help and couldn’t be described as a momentary aberration. There is nothing approaching justification or a need for taking this money.
“It was stolen for some instant gratification and has all been dissipated.”
Mr Valder said she had been employed as a £21,000 a year accounts administrator at the “small family-run” business, which employed 39 staff, since 2011.
“Among her duties was paying utility bills and she was described as a good worker and there were no obvious signs of her living beyond her means. Sadly that was a false impression.”
He said Hartshorne set up three private accounts and paid £99,746 into them on 82 occasions between August 2012 and July last year.
“It is clear that the staff were profoundly shocked by what had been going on under their noses because they didn’t have an inkling.”
The prosecutor added that while on sick leave Hartshorne realised the game was up and handed in her notice, claiming health issues in a four-line terse email.
She was later quizzed by police and admitted “she had done wrong but could offer no explanation as to why she had done it and didn’t know what she had done with the money," the court heard.
Hartshorne said she had “nothing to show for the thefts and was surprised by the amount”.
Her lawyer Guy Wyatt said the thief had not lived a “hedonistic” lifestyle or made valuable purchases - only a pressure cooker and a new oven for her mother.
He added that she had been suffering from depression and is now "contrite and thoroughly, thoroughly ashamed of herself," he added.
The judge told her: “I admit that I struggle to see a direct link between such systematic, prolonged and sophisticated dishonesty and the fact you claim to feel depressed.
“I can understand the feelings of betrayal your former employers have expressed.”
He also ordered an financial investigation into her means under the Proceeds of Crime Act to see if any money can be clawed back.