Luton woman stole £60k from Whitbread

News from the courts.
News from the courts.

A customer service advisor from Luton was sent to prison for 16 months today after stealing over £60,000 from her employer.

Lucy Farrelly, 28, of Albert Road, appeared at Luton Crown Court today (Friday) after pleading guilty to fraud by false representation.

The court heard the customer relations advisor stole £60,800.46 from Whitbread PLC, whose headquarters is in Houghton regis, over an 18 month period from November 4, 2014, to 18 April, 2016.

Farrelly had access to the company’s computer system and transferred potential refunds for customer complaints directly into her bank account.

Jailing her for 16 months, Judge Michael Kay QC said a custodial sentence was inevitable.

He said: “At some point you spotted that people who made complaints did not always go through with them.

“You saw that as an opportunity to take money from your employer.”

The court heard Farrelly stole money on 196 occasions to support her lifestyle, which included a three week holiday in Cuba. Other money was spent on family and friends.

Judge Kay went on: “It was not the most sophisticated fraud because the money was going directly into your bank account.”

The fraud eventually came to light when a manager spotted £5,000 worth of refunds going to the same customer.

Farrelly initially denied being responsible but made full admissions when the matter was referred to police.

She told a probation officer she felt like a “scumbag” and had suffered abandonment issues from her childhood.

An ex-boyfriend had also apparently left her with £7,000 debt from payday loan companies. In spite of her large theft, over £3,000 of this remains unpaid.

After leaving Whitbread she has worked as a carer for people with learning difficulties.

Judge Kay added: “It came as a shock to everyone that you were acting this way, no one suspected you were a dishonest individual. Family and friends are clearly very surprised.

“I accept some money went to help family and friends but I’m bound to conclude that other money went towards your lifestyle.”

Farrell will serve half of her sentence before being released on license.