Published: 00:00, 18 August 2006
AN IT manager with SeaFrance who spent thousands of pounds she had been paid in error escaped a prison sentence on Friday.
Samantha Jeffcoat never alerted her bosses to the sums being paid by a faulty computer system into several of her bank and credit card accounts. Instead, Maidstone Crown Court heard, she buried her head in the sand.
Jeffcoat, 33, of Elmstone Road, Ramsgate, admitted theft of £46,448 by way of retention. She sobbed in the dock as Recorder Charles George QC told her she had been spared jail by the "extreme delay" in bringing her case to court.
He said he also accepted that the mum-of-one had not transferred the money herself.
Sentencing her to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years he said: "Theft by retention is a lesser offence but nonetheless for someone with your sort of knowledge of finance, to deliberately go on a binge with this sort of money is utterly deplorable and warrants a sentence of imprisonment."
He added that he found it "wholly incredible" that she did not check her bank her credit card statements. "It is apparent that your expenditure increased dramatically and was far in excess than could be contemplated by someone on a £28,000 salary," he said. "You must have known that you had all this money."
Prosecutor Martin Griffith told the court that between January and May 2002 the computer system at SeaFrance was making three-figure payments into six bank and credit card accounts held by Jeffcoat either in her own name or with her husband.
"In that time she had spent £12,000, £15,000 and £10,000 a month on her credit card when she was earning an annual salary of £28,000," he added.
Following her arrest Jeffcoat told police: "We are like most couples. We just spend, spend what we haven’t got."
Mr Griffith said she also claimed she never opened her bank or credit card statements. "When asked what the money had been spent on she said: 'It’s just gone.'," he added.
"She said it had been spent on clothes and she had lived with her head in the sand."
Oliver Saxby, defending, said at the time of the offence Jeffcoat was suffering from depression and was having family problems. He said she accepted she should have done something about the overpayments and now wanted to repay as much, if not all, of the money back.
Mr Saxby said that although Jeffcoat was interviewed in November 2002 she was not charged until May last year. "As far as punishment is concerned her life has been hell over the past year."
Jeffcoat, who has a six-year-old child, was ordered to pay compensation of £6,500 at £200 a month.