Woman who stole £180,000 busted after £37 shopping trip at B&Q
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Featured Image Credit: Merseyside Police / Ming Yeung/Getty Images
A woman who stole a whopping £180,000 has been busted after a £37 shopping trip at B&Q.
But first, let's rewind to when it all began back in 2013 when the law-breaker, Tracy Ellis, was first hired to work at the building contractor company Ingham and Garner Ltd.
During her time with the company, Ellis became 'solely responsible' for the company's accounts.
Can you see where this is going?
One of the 52-year-old's work duties included paying invoices and looking after petty cash and, for a handful of years, she fulfilled her task with her fellow employees totally in the dark as to what would eventually go on behind closed doors.
Liverpool Crown Court found that it wasn't until 9 May of last year until one hawk-eyed co-worker began to unravel Ellis' ploy.
Company director, Jennifer Burrows, noticed a transaction on the company's business account that didn't seem to make any sense.
The transaction in question was a £37.80 at B&Q in St Helens the previous day (8 May 2022).
Burrows later confronted Ellis - given that she and her were the only two members of staff who knew the pin number for that particular business card.
Ellis then allegedly 'suggested it might have been another employee' who had used it.
Clearly not sticking to one story, Ellis later changed her response and admitted she had made the B&Q purchase but claimed 'it had been an accident and she had mistaken the company card for her own'.
Understandably, this raised major suspicions for Burrows.
The company director later carried out follow-up checks on the business account to find that the mother-of-three had repaid the sum 'along with a further payment'.
However, she dug a little further and began to unwind a few more bizarre transactions with one dated 5 May, while a second from 22 April showed a £300 cash withdrawal.
And the digging only continued.
Burrows went on to find a record of a payment to a Preston-based skip which stated funds had been transferred to Ellis' personal bank account.
Upon finding this out, a full internal investigation was launched.
Those conducting the investigation discovered that Ellis had stolen a staggering £181,958.95 from her employer.
This lump sum was spread out over the course of 139 separate transactions dating all the way back to January 2017 and had been made into 12 separate accounts, including those of her family members.
Ellis was subsequently fired from the company before being taken to court, where she admitted fraud by abuse of position.
In a statement read out to the court on her behalf, Burrows said: "It has been a really stressful experience to go through. All of us in the office were friends to Tracy.
"I feel quite hurt and upset. It has been a difficult process - there have been many sleepless nights."
Ellis, who had no previous convictions, has since found employment 'at a much lower level'.
Her defence lawyer, Andrew McInnes, said: "She has clearly been a good and supportive friend but for some reason it seems she has taken a destructive path, leading to the defendant's shame before the court. She is terrified at the prospect of what might follow.
"There is a history of anxiety and depression following the birth of her first son. There is a suggestion of low mood.
"That depression was exacerbated by the deaths of her mother and sister within weeks in 2014. She assumed responsibility for her niece."
McInnes added that Ellis had been 'living some sort of fantasy' over having 'an income beyond the income she received'.
He continued: "Her low self-esteem led to a desire to please people.
"There are clearly elements of escapism by buying things and giving family members money. She was drinking to excess, which clouded her judgement.
"She tells me she knew that at some point she would be caught. She has precious little left to show for it.
"She is extremely remorseful. She is genuinely devastated by her behaviour."
The lawyer went on to claim it was 'hard to envisage a woman like Tracy Ellis before this court at all' let alone for 'such a significant amount of money'.
"She has clearly taken a foolish and criminal decision at a low point in her life, which has snowballed out of control - she buried her head in the sand for many years."
Ellis was sentenced for two years and eight months and is set to return to court later this year, when she could be ordered to repay the grand sum of money - over £180,000 - that she stole from the company.