Published: 17:04, 08 January 2021
| Updated: 17:42, 08 January 2021
A financial director who swindled her own firm out of over £800,000 to feed an online gambling addiction has been jailed for 32 months.
Lauren Farr, 34, conned Cwmbran company We Fight Any Claim for more than three years while working there as a senior executive.
Cardiff Crown Court heard the mother-of-two gambled around £1.5 million through online gambling sites, such as Paddy Power and Betfred.
Farr used her knowledge as a chartered accountant to hide the siphoning of money from the company into her own bank account.
She claimed she had taken the money because she was an alcoholic and had a crazy gambling problem
The court heard that most of the money was spent on her gambling addiction but also heard that Farr used the money to fund family holidays and a BMW X5 car.
She was rumbled when her bosses learned that payments which appeared to have been made to existing clients had no corresponding matching invoices.
They thought initially around £70,000 had been taken but later learnt of the true amount.
When confronted, Farr admitted: “It was me.”
Alexander Greenwood, prosecuting, told the court: “She had been responsible for maintaining the purchase ledgers, paying creditors and reconciling accounts.
“She attended a meeting at her workplace and she admitted she had stolen some £60,000 and she said she intended to fix it and pay it back without anybody knowing.
“She claimed she had taken the money because she was an alcoholic and had a crazy gambling problem.”
She was unable to elaborate why she started taking money from the company. She stated she was not in any financial trouble at that time
Mr Greenwood said police financial investigators looked into Farr’s finances.
“Much of that money was used to make numerous online bets, including Paddy Power, Betfred and other betting companies,” he said.
“When asked why she had taken the money she said she was desperate.
“She confirmed she would fabricate and falsify invoices from company suppliers. She would transfer the invoiced amounts from the company bank account into her own bank account.”
He added: “She was unable to elaborate why she started taking money from the company. She stated she was not in any financial trouble at that time.
“She stated it had got out of control and she was gambling to try and win back the money.”
Farr had started at the company in a junior admin position and had over 13 years worked her way up to its financial director earning £70,000.
The court heard that due to the fraud, the company had been forced to make employees redundant.
Farr, of Spring Grove, Cwmbran, Monmouthshire previously admitted defrauding We Fight Any Claim out of £825,751.60 between March 2016 and October 2019.
Ieuan Bennett, defending, said Farr had suffered significant problems in her childhood which had impacted her adult life.
“The defendant became addicted to gambling and there must have been some deep-rooted unhappiness in her life and it must have had some sort of therapeutic impact upon her,” Mr Bennett said.
“She was for many months gambling quite considerable sums, relatively secretly at home.”
Mr Bennett said Farr’s husband was unaware of his wife’s gambling and only became aware of the size of the fraud recently.
Criticising the gambling industry, he added: “I really must voice one concern. Quite how those industries think people are able to find thousands and thousands of pounds every month to spend, heaven only knows.
“Looking at the figures that is of course what she was doing time after time.”
Passing sentence, Deputy Circuit Judge Neil Bidder QC also expressed concern at how Farr had been allowed to gamble so much online.
“It is deeply concerning that this woman could have been allowed by the online gambling sites to have gambled quite this much money,” he said.
“You carried out a sophisticated and well concealed fraud, fabricating invoices, manipulating the accounts as you were capable of doing given your training.
“You caused very substantial losses. It has had a substantial detrimental affect on the company and I am sure it has contributed to employees being made redundant.
“This was a case where you started gambling from perhaps trivial and harmless ways and became addicted.
“I have absolutely no doubt that your experiences in childhood and that fed into your character and led to you becoming a person who could become addicted to gambling.”
He added: “When you go to prison primary in your thoughts will be your children and that will an extra punishment for you and I take that very much into account.”