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Chester-le-Street Virgin Bank employee has lived the high life after stealing £ 1.3million from employer

A thief bank employee has lived the high life after helping himself to £ 1.3million in a shocking breach of trust.

Foodie Laura Matthews has transferred huge sums of money and prepared the books to cover her tracks while working for Virgin PLC.

A court heard she had run away with the criminal behavior for six years and was only caught red-handed when someone replacing her during a period of leave noticed a discrepancy.

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When she scolded she immediately put her hands up but tried to pull the wool over the police eyes saying she had only stolen £ 34,000.

A Virgin Money audit revealed the true extent of Matthews’ dishonesty.

She initially said she did it to pay off the payday loan companies, but she also bought a £ 42,000 BMW and later claimed that she spent the vast majority of her earnings poorly. acquired in horses and equine equipment.

Now the 32-year-old loner, described as trying to buy friendships, has been jailed at Newcastle Crown Court.

Prosecutor Kevin Wardlaw said a total of £ 1,309,719 was stolen between May 2013 and July 2019 while working for the finance team.

Part of his role was to reconcile the ledgers, to ensure that the money that entered was accounted for correctly and that the money available matched what had been paid into various accounts.

Mr Wardlaw said: “The violation came to light while she was on leave and a payment could not be recorded. The anomaly in the general ledger was discovered by a member of staff who reported it. replaced. “

It was for £ 23,000 and it was found to have been paid into Matthews’ account.

She took notice of the find and went to a police station to confess and admitted to stealing £ 34,000 at this point.

Mr Wardlaw said: “She said the reason was because she was in debt and took out various loans to pay off the creditors of the loan company and she was effectively stealing from Peter to pay Paul.”

After a full internal audit, Virgin discovered that Matthews, who had been employed there since 2008, had made 48 transactions in four accounts he owned, and one in a third party, for a total of £ 1.3million.

The prosecutor said: “She transferred money to her own personal accounts and then falsified company records to cover up what she was doing. So on paper it all came together but in reality the shortfall had been paid into his various accounts. “

She had spent £ 42,000 on a new BMW, at least £ 26,000 on horses and equipment, £ 38,000 on Paypal debts and had also paid payday loan companies.

Mr Wardlaw said: “Whatever the reason for starting, it quickly became a way to finance an extravagant lifestyle.

“She was leading the high life and enjoying the benefits of the money she got.”

He added: “This was criminal behavior over an extended period of time and there was a breach of trust and responsibility and she took steps to cover it up.

“She was a trusted employee with a high degree of responsibility.”

The court heard that all the money was gone, but prosecutors will prosecute her under the proceeds of crime law.

The 32-year-old, of Rosecroft, Pelton, Chester-le-Street, Durham, pleaded guilty to theft and transfer of criminal property and was jailed for four years and nine months.

Harbinder Lally, defending, said: “She wrote a letter – she is deeply ashamed and embarrassed and described it as a horrific crime.

“She is described as kind of a loner, she didn’t have a lot of friends and it seems she tried to buy friendships.

“It seems that all the money she had, other than the BMW, was spent on her love of horses.

“She didn’t have any friends and bought them things.

“She really didn’t do anything with it other than buying friends, who didn’t know what she was doing.”

Mr Lally added that she was in debt, her relationship had broken down, that she had been bullied at school and that she lived with her supportive parents.

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