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Shropshire bookkeeper who stole £75k from firms to pay back just £10

South Shropshire | News | Published:

Her "determined" and "cruel" fraud will cost a Shropshire business thousands – but jailed bookkeeper Leanne Miller was only ordered to pay back £10 by a court.

Judge Robin Onions made the order for the nominal amount under the Proceeds of Crime Act at Shrewsbury Crown Court after hearing the 31-year-old had no assets, despite creaming more than £75,000 from two firms in just over a year.

The court heard she was taken on as a bookkeeper by Telford-based Jigsaw Business Management Services in March 2014.

Julie Owen, director of Jigsaw Business Management Services, said as soon as she suspected there was a problem with Leanne Miller she stripped her of any responsibility and gathered vital evidence.

Miss Owen, who had invested tens of thousands of pounds of her own money into her bookkeeping and credit control company since launching it eight years ago, said she feared she would lose business when she uncovered Miller's criminal actions.

However she said she had been left "overwhelmed" by the support of her clients who have praised her for her quick actions and detecting Miller's criminal activity. Miss Owen also thanked her family and friends and the wider business community for their support since the case was revealed.

She said the case had left her "emotionally exhausted" and she had been forced to scale down her business while full internal audits and police investigations into Miller took place.

She said: "I put my trust in Leanne Miller as you do as a business owner when you take on any employee, especially someone who is fully AAT qualified.

"I believed she was a trustworthy, capable, qualified bookkeeper but instead she allowed her selfishness and greed and a lack of care about the impact of that on my business or my client's business to take over for her own financial gain.

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"Leanne was intercepting post and invoices and changing bank details and also informing clients of the fictitious change of bank details so the money meant for my client was deposited straight into her bank account.

"How she thought she would get away with such behaviour I do not know as I personally run the credit control side of the business and she knew I would be chasing payments which had not been credited into my client's accounts.

"To discover someone could carry out such calculated criminality to another individual – especially such a small, intimate business like Jigsaw, makes me sick."

Miss Owen welcomed the sentence and the fact Miller was facing time behind bars for the crime.

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But she was sacked in January this year by boss Julie Owen because of concerns about her work and the amount of time she was having off, prosecutor Mr Michael Grey told the court. A month later, in February, Mr Grey said, the frauds came to light.

Miller changed the sort code and account number on invoices for Birmingham-based firm Live Recruitment, for whom Jigsaw acted, so cash was paid to her instead of them. In 11 separate transactions between March 2014 and January this year £52,534 was paid falsely into her account.

Mr Grey said she quickly got another job as a bookkeeper with Bookcheck, in Swansea, and took £25,294.67 from them using the same methods between January and April this year. She had repaid nearly £20,000 but nearly £50,000 was outstanding to the two affected firms, Mr Grey said, and they were repaying clients themselves.

Mr Brendan Reedy, for Miller, said the only mitigation he could offer was that his client had pleaded guilty straight away and attempted to pay some of the money back.

He added: "The partner she was with was someone who used drugs and she was effectively supporting that lifestyle, while running up considerable debts herself."

Miller, formerly of Craven Arms but now living in Swansea, had admitted two charges of fraud. She was sentenced to two years and four months in prison by Judge Onions, who said: These are offences, of their type, of the greatest seriousness.

"You were trusted by both employers. You decided that you were going to steal money from them."

He added: "This was, in my view, determined dishonesty. It was also cruel dishonesty because you abused your position. You have put Julie Owen under great stress and put her company at risk."

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