Woman stole £360,000 from charity - and went shopping
A MANAGER for a homeless people's charity helped herself to £361,000 by writing herself cheques and using a company credit card to go shopping.
Samantha Wilding stole the money when she worked for Way Ahead Housing, which merged into charity Independent People, Bristol Crown Court heard.
The mother-of-three forged signatures to write herself cheques and used a company credit card at Marks & Spencer and to stay at a hotel. She admitted the offences and was jailed for two years.
The court also heard that the cost of her home renovations got out of hand and that she needed the extra money to tide her over. Wilding, 46, of Gloucester Road, Staple Hill, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud as well as a charge of theft, spanning from 2005 to last year.
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Judge Carol Hagen told her: "This was a very substantial fraud over a long period of time. It represents a gross breach of trust."
Caighli Taylor, prosecuting, said Wilding was employed as a corporate services director from 2001, dealing with finance, human resources and administration.
Miss Taylor said: "She had access to bank accounts, financial systems, the company chequebook and credit card. She was a signatory to the company's bank accounts."
When forged cheques were noticed by the company, Wilding offered to resign, the court heard.
Further forged cheques materialised, including one in which Wilding forged the signature of a colleague on maternity leave.
Miss Taylor said Wilding put £452.01 on the company credit card with a trip to Liverpool, Marks & Spencer and a hotel. The theft charge related to her taking £60 from a "staff rent tin", the court heard.
The long-term fraud meant the charity lost means for future investment, Miss Taylor told the court.
Jason Taylor, defending, said: "Clearly, this has to be custody.
"Miss Wilding has said she needs to face the consequences. She understands she should be punished."
Mr Taylor said his client had wanted to extend her house for £25,000, but the project escalated to £45,000.
He said: "Her intention was that money borrowed would be just to tide her over. She did not lead an extravagant lifestyle. She replaced the bathroom and they went to Spain for a week.
"Over time the money mounted up. A trail would always lead back to her because her signature was on the cheques. It took six years and she has now admitted the offences completely."