Mum who stole £18,000 from employer avoids jail time

A mother-of-four has stolen more than £18,000 from her 14-year-old employer to help pay off spiraling debts and feed her children.

Catherine Wiggins had worked part-time for Alan Duffy, of Alan Duffy Building Contractors and Alan Duffy Properties, since 2007, and was given the keys to her office as well as her house.

Burnley Crown Court heard how, before his offence, Mr Duffy had highly regarded Wiggins as someone with an impeccable respect for time and described their working relationship as ‘perfect’.

Stephen Parker, prosecuting, told the court that in his role, Wiggins, 35, was responsible for invoicing and work estimates and was authorized to use Mr Duffy’s online bank account, transacting as he went. and as needed, paying the wages of builders and construction suppliers. .

He said: ‘The first feeling that something was wrong came in June 2019 when Mr Duffy received a phone call from the Royal Bank of Scotland asking if he had authorized a payment of what looked like a loan company.

“Mr. Duffy said he didn’t and assumed he had been the target of a scam. He certainly didn’t expect it had anything to do with the accused at that time.

“As a result, he installed CCTV cameras in his offices, but found it strange when the defendant asked him, ‘is that camera on me’, and moved his computer from its usual position. ”

The court heard that on another occasion Mr Duffy asked to see bank statements but instead of providing them, Wiggins, of Lincoln Court, Church, provided him with a chart.

Then, in August 2019, while Wiggins was on annual leave, Mr Duffy was checking some bank statements himself and noticed a payment to a company called Gauge and Build.

Mr Parker added: “Between October 2017 and August 2019 there were a number of transactions between £160 and £400 each, recorded as office supplies.

“He knew he hadn’t authorized them and so he phoned the defendant to ask if she knew anything and she said no.”

It was later discovered, after Mr Duffy telephoned his bank, that Wiggins had set up the Gauge and Build company in his own name, with the account opened at a branch of the TSB in Blackburn.

After going through two years of reporting with his bank’s fraud team, Mr Duffy discovered that more than £18,000 worth of transactions had been cleared to be paid out to Gauge and Build.

Mr Parker said: ‘Wiggins was confronted and she confessed to him over the phone that she was responsible for the money siphoned off.’

It was understood Wiggins was in considerable debt, not helped by the fact that her partner at the time was abusive and she struggled to support her four children.

Mr Parker said: ‘She advised that she had limited means and got into financial debt and understood if Mr Duffy felt he needed to contact the police.

“She told Mr Duffy she would pay back every penny and started putting some of her possessions up for sale immediately.

“Mr Duffy said in a message to the accused: ‘I am absolutely mortified, how could you rob me in what was a premeditated plan? I was robbed last year and you were aware of it, then you did this to me and my family”.

“Wiggins was questioned by police and made a full confession and said she only stole the money to pay off her debt and feed her children.”

Mitigating for Wiggins, Anna Chestnutt said her client’s financial situation was ‘out of control’ and she was under pressure not just to pay off her own debt, but also that of her partner.

Wiggins, who has no previous convictions, was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, ordered to perform five days of rehabilitation activity and 150 hours of unpaid work and will have to repay the money in full. ‘she has stolen.