A former bursar used her school's corporate card to fund a £15,000 Amazon spree on a host of lavish purchases including garden furniture, massages, Christmas meals and a designer wallet.
Emma Taylor, who was the finance manager at Northfleet School for Girls, pleaded guilty to a fraud charge after she was discovered in February 2019 by headteacher Chris Norwood.
Investigators found more than 250 purchases had been made during a two-year period between January 31, 2017 and February 4, 2019.
Taylor, of High Trees, Stone, near Dartford, admitted a charge of committing fraud by abuse of position in a hearing at Medway Magistrates' Court earlier this month.
An investigation found Taylor, who joined the school in Hall Road in September 2016, spent £15,065 on personal purchases which also included buying a Dyson desk fan and a barbecue and even Christmas presents for school colleagues.
It was only when Mr Norwood uncovered a series of suspicious transactions using the school's corporate card being made in the run up to Christmas 2018 that investigators were called in.
The team found a designer wallet, Christmas food shopping, meals out, wine and massages had all been purchased using the corporate card she had been issued solely for buying items to benefit the school.
Mr Norwood reported the purchases to Kent County Council's counter fraud team.
They found Taylor had also used the card to buy several gifts and items through a personal Amazon account including an indoor surveillance system, furniture, alcohol, gel back massagers, Dyson desk fan, a driving experience, a nine carat white gold diamond heart shaped locket, a Cosmo grill gas barbecue, a set of three IT Luggage suitcases and Rattan garden furniture.
Taylor, who left her position with the school in May 2019 three months after the investigation began, repaid the full amount owed to the school by February 2020 – 12 months after her crime was discovered.
She also paid back an additional £894 not included in the criminal investigation taking the total to £15,959.
Magistrates sentenced Taylor to 180 days in prison suspended for two years and 30 days rehabilitation with the probation service. The court ordered her to pay £500 costs and £115 victim surcharge.
Taylor, whose role was to ensure school finances were safeguarded and appropriate financial regulations were followed, also used the card for personal training sessions at the gym and body massages at a beauticians near her home.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Norwood said: "Northfleet School for Girls takes a zero tolerance approach to any form of fraud or malpractice.
“As soon as concerns came to light this matter was reported to the KCC fraud team, leading to a full investigation and prosecution.
"The member of staff concerned no longer works at our school and recovery of funds has taken place.”
Richard Long, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “Committing fraud within an education establishment impacts not only the school finances but those that we are trying to educate through a reduction in their available resources.
“My thanks go to the headteacher and KCC's Counter Fraud Team whose vigilance uncovered this fraud and I am very glad that the school has made a full recovery of the amount stolen.
“This case is a timely reminder that the checking of expenditure occurred on corporate payment cards at all levels is a key financial control to prevent fraud from occurring.”