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Woman who defrauded employers of £451,000 jailed for more than three years

By Dayna Farrington | Kidderminster | Crime | Published:

A woman who defrauded her employers of more than £451,000 has been jailed for more than three years and ordered to pay back more than £100,000.

Worcester Crown Court. Pic: Google Street View

In 2011, Joanne Collins, 53, was employed as the office and accounts manager at family-run construction firm Serfis Construction and Engineering Limited, then based in Kidderminster.

The court heard that Collins, formerly of Green Park Road, in Bromsgrove, had sole responsibility for managing the payments into and out of the business accounts, as well as inputting account details onto the company system.

Due to the length of time she had been at the company, which now has its headquarters based in Stourbridge, she was a trusted member of staff and treated like part of the family. She was given her own company credit card, company car, and was able to sign cheques for the business.

In June 2018, concerns were raised about payments made to companies who Serfis did not have business dealings with. Worcester Crown Court heard it was discovered that Collins had made payments to three fake companies – and the funds had been processed into her own account.

Between 2012 and 2018, it is believed that Collins stole in the excess of £451,000 from Serfis.

She was dismissed from the company in December 2018 and she was charged with fraud by abuse of position of trust in October 2019. She was convicted of the offence in December 2019 at Hereford Crown Court.

Collins was sentenced to three years and eight months in jail on Friday at Worcester Crown Court.

She was also ordered to pay back a total of £117,457.52 - which was the amount she was found to have available. This was made up entirely from the sale of her house in Bromsgrove.

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Severity

Collins was given two months to pay back the cash, or face a further two years in prison,

Detective Inspector Emma Wright, of the Economic Crime Unit at West Mercia Police, said: “The sentence imposed upon Collins reflects the severity of her crime and the abuse of the trust placed in her by her employers.

"This outcome is testament to a thorough criminal investigation by officers from the Criminal Investigation Department in North Worcestershire.

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“In addition to the custodial sentence, Collins has been stripped of the trappings of her crime by powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act, as a result of a financial investigation by West Mercia Police Economic Crime Unit.

"A confiscation order imposed means she must pay the victims back £117,000, or face further time in prison. This order goes some way to compensate Serfis Construction and Engineering, a family-run business, who have been impacted significantly by the criminal conduct of Collins.

“Furthermore, should Collins be found to have further assets in the future, she will be required to pay these back, until the total amount of £451,000 has been satisfied.

"This case demonstrates that those who commit serious fraud will be tackled by West Mercia Police; both by bringing them to justice and by removing the proceeds of the crimes, to compensate victims.”

Dayna Farrington

By Dayna Farrington
Senior reporter based at Wolverhampton

Reporter for the Express & Star based at Wolverhampton.

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