A lonely law executive has been jailed after stealing £205,000 from her firm in order to “buy friends.”Ruth Turner, 46, pocketed the money from Kundert Solicitors in Coventry in a sophisticated scam between 2009 and 2011.
She used it to improve her social life by lavishing new friends with expensive meals out, shopping excursions and a trip to a Neil Diamond concert twice in one week.
Prosecutors said she did so because she had felt like a social outcast for most of her life.
The elaborate fraud went undetected by colleagues but finally came to light when Turner confessed to police last year.
She was jailed for three years at Coventry Crown Court after admitting abusing her position as a company executive to siphon funds.
Ian Ball, prosecuting, said Turner had used the money to “buy friends” had struggled to pay spiraling debts.
He said: “She found by taking friends to lavish events, shopping, meals, that she was suddenly popular.
“The money was going out as quickly as it was coming in, spending some money on the house, taking friends out and going to live concerts including Neil Diamond twice in one week.”
She told police she had stolen about £400,000, but due to lack of evidence she could only be charged for £205,000, Mr Ball said.
Passing sentence, Judge Richard Griffith-Jones described the offence as a “serious abuse of trust” that risked harming the company in a tough economic climate and put colleagues’ jobs in jeopardy.
He told Turner: “You were doing it out of greed, and you weren’t really being as generous as you felt when you were treating friends with this extravagant lifestyle because it wasn’t your money to be generous with.”
The court heard she used the completion of house sales to cover up her frauds and transferred up to £21,000 a time into her own bank account.
The financial loss to Kundert Solicitors has left the firm facing doubled insurance premiums and a £100,000 investigation bill.
Turner, from Hinckley, Leics, started work at the company as a secretary in 2006, progressing to the role of conveyancing executive on an annual salary of £36,000.
Her fraud was only uncovered when she left the firm last September before handing herself in to police and showing them statements revealing the transfers.
Turner, who has a son at university and was the primary carer for her 75-year-old mother, admitted the charge at an earlier hearing.
Graham Russell, defending, said she was “driven to desperation” against a background of an abusive relationship, financial problems and mental health issues including depression and compulsive behaviour.
He said his client felt so ashamed of what she had done that she attempted suicide before handing herself in to police.
“Many people who suffer depression find themselves engaging in some form of compulsive activity,” Mr Russell said.
“I would suggest, having in mind the abusive relationship she was in, having in mind that she was having difficulty with compulsive eating and compulsive drinking, that would go some way to explaining the compulsive stealing and compulsive spending.”
A Kundert Solicitors official who attended the hearing declined to comment outside court.
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