Mum stole £100,000 from employer to fund Instagram lifestyle she couldn’t afford

<p>A mum stole £100,000 from her employer to fund her Instagram lifestyle.  </p>
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A mum stole £100,000 from her employer to fund her Instagram lifestyle.

A Blackpool financial assistant stole £100,000 from her employer to fund an Instagram lifestyle she simply couldn’t afford.

Laura Howarth, 41, bought a white SUV, expensive hair extensions and VIP concert tickets at her employer’s expense. She copied the lifestyles of other glamorous women, including her boss’ wife, by posting the trappings of her lavish lifestyle on social media.

But behind the scenes, the mother-of-two was a lowly financial assistant, earning just over £900 a month and owing ‘a few thousand’ in payday loans and stealing ‘every week’, the court heard, did not stopping only when she has gone on vacation and on maternity leave.

Preston Crown Court heard Howarth, of Devona Avenue, Blackpool even requested extensions to credit card limits to allow him to steal up to £6,000 a month. When the thefts were discovered, in August 2018, she claimed she had shared the money with her colleagues at British Independent Utilities.

But jailing him for 10 months, Judge Richard Gioserano said: “You stole a lot of money to afford a lifestyle you couldn’t afford – a glimpse of which you can see on your Instagram account. “

In 2013, Howarth was employed by the Times Top 100 company and tasked with handling petty cash and expense accounts. But Stuart Neale, prosecuting, said she started flying “almost immediately”. In August that year, she withdrew £50 from a Royal Bank of Scotland ATM, although cash withdrawals were prohibited by the company.

She then added the money to a legitimate expense report when she entered it into the Sage accounting system, so the books appeared balanced. When she realized she could get away with it, Howarth continued to withdraw and an average of £3,000 a month – only stopping when she went on holiday or on maternity leave.

In November 2016, she wasted £6,000 of company money in a month, the court heard. But in August 2018, financial controller Chris Russell was examining the company’s credit cards and discovered one – used by Howarth – had been used to withdraw cash. when he checked the filing cabinet, he could not find the map readings, but found one later on Howarth’s desk. An investigation was opened and Howarth was suspended from her job. That night, she sent a WhatsApp message to her employer saying, “I’m sorry for everything.”

Russell said he had his suspicions of Howarth when he saw her driving in a new Kia Sportage and on one occasion when he spent £500 a ticket to see his favorite comedian on stage in Manchester , he was shocked to see Howarth and her husband sitting in the row behind.

During the investigation, Mr Priestley said the disgraced employee had manipulated colleagues and driven a wedge between staff, who were unable to know who to believe. He said employing people was at the heart of the business, but Howarth abused the trust placed in him, which “fundamentally shattered my belief in people”.

Anthony Parkinson, defending, said his client had always been a hard worker and had no previous convictions. The impact of his offense would be felt by his extended family, he said.

At sentencing, Judge Gioserano said: ‘You (Howarth) tried to cover up your thefts with false accounts, and you did so for a long time. You not only covered your tracks, but increased the card limit so you could steal more. You tried to blame others in the sense that you said what you took out was given to other employees – and that was a very limited pool.

“Most importantly, you accept that you stole this money not to alleviate genuine financial hardship, not to pay for treatment in a private hospital for a sick family member, but to fund a lifestyle that you could not afford it otherwise. Honest, hard-working people work hard to try to afford it, and if they can’t afford it that way, they just accept it. They don’t resort to stealing to fund it.