Narinder Kaur, from Chippenham, was found guilty on March 10 of 14 offences of fraud, two of money laundering, four of possessing the proceeds of crime, one of conspiracy to defraud and four of perverting the course of justice.
Kaur, previously known as Nina Tiara, scammed shops across the West Midlands including in Dudley, Smethwick, Telford and Shrewsbury.
The defendant, of Chosen Hill, Cleverton, near Chippenham, but formerly from Worcester, was remanded in custody to await sentence at a later date after a four-month trial at Gloucester Crown Court.
At the start of the trial on November 8 last year, prosecutor Gareth Weetman told the jury it "is a case that is all about dishonesty".
"The defendant is an intelligent but also a highly dishonest and manipulative individual," he said.
"This trial concerns how the defendant went about deceiving shops, banks, solicitors – and even the courts."
He said Kaur had "made a career out of deceiving retailers into handing over substantial sums to her for the return of items that she had not purchased".
Her "extraordinary" trail of offences had continued for several years before she was caught and had been highly lucrative, he said.
Mr Weetman went on: "But this is not just a trial about shoplifting on an industrial level – it is about dishonesty on a far wider scale than that. It is about how, in 2019, she worked with a male accomplice to use stolen bank card details to make payments to a series of solicitors' firms and others.
"It is also about how she intentionally lied in the face of court proceedings, in order to mislead the courts and try to affect the outcome. It is about the substantial funds that she obtained from her dishonest conduct."
Mr Weetman said that when she was finally arrested and charged with wholesale offending Kaur was not deterred and continued her life of crime by lying to courts to get her bail conditions amended so she could go out stealing and claiming refunds again.
Twice while she was on bail awaiting trial police raided her home and found large stashes of cash as well as hoards of stolen goods.
Kaur had also lied and produced false documents to courts to try to prevent herself being convicted of two speeding offences. The jury heard that Kaur’s theft and fraud victims included dozens of branches of Boots, Debenhams, Homebase, John Lewis, House of Fraser, Monsoon, M&S, and TK Maxx.
Twice during the mammoth trial – believed to be the longest ever held at Gloucester Crown Court – Kaur collapsed in front of the jury and paramedics were called to her aid.
Mr Weetman told how Kaur had discovered several years ago that "there was a way that she could make a comfortable income from shoplifting".
He said: "What if it were possible to trick a retailer into giving you the full value of an item that you have stolen? The problem with that, you might think, is that if you’ve stolen an item, you won’t have a receipt for it. Therefore, if you just took it into a store and said 'Can I have my money back for this?', you’d probably not get very far.
"The defendant realised that there were ways to beat the system. For example, she discovered that with many large retailers, if you take an item that they sell in to a store, claim you’ve bought it but don’t have the receipt, but say that you just want to exchange it, you’re much more likely to succeed.
"Then, at the same time you’re exchanging that item, if you buy something of low value, for a few pounds, then you’ll be given a receipt that entitles you to a refund of all the items on that new receipt.
"The police uncovered evidence of an extraordinary campaign by this defendant, over several years, against many of the nation’s most well-known retailers. A campaign that took her across the country, and to hundreds of different stores. It was, in reality, her full-time job. And it was a job she worked very hard at and that in turn was very lucrative for her.
"The story of this defendant’s trail of dishonesty is quite incredible. It began to finally unravel when the police took a step back and examined her bank and credit card accounts. The police realised, when they did so, that this defendant had many different accounts which, when combined, demonstrated an extraordinary history of refund payments from major retailers."
Mr Weetman detailed how Kaur had spent £5,000 at Boots stores in Cheltenham, Malvern, Solihull, Droitwich, Kidderminster, Dudley and Smethwick - but obtained refunds she was not entitled to totalling £60,000.
At Debenhams stores she got refunds of £42,800 but spent only £3,600. She defrauded John Lewis stores in Watford, Chester, Milton Keynes and Cardiff out of £33,000 but spent only £5,200 in those shops.
Kaur visited many branches of Monsoon, incuding those at Warrington, Colney, Broughton, Maidenhead, Stafford, Birmingham, Bristol, Trowbridge, Basingstoke, Reading, Bridgend, Yeovil, Telford, Watford, Cardiff, Shrewsbury and Milton Keynes and obtained £26,000 worth of refunds - but her expenditure was only £5,200.
At House of Fraser stores in Bristol, Cardiff, Cwmbran and Exeter she spent £2,850 and claimed refunds of £23,000.
Homebase and TK Maxx stores in Bristol, Stafford, Chichester, Taunton, Winchester, Salisbury, Shrewsbury, Oxford, Cannock, Solihull, Cardiff, Worcester, Farnborough, Maidenhead, and Swindon were defrauded of £19,540 by Kaur but her expenditure in those shops was just £1,181.
Mr Weetman highlighted how Kaur had managed to obtain 19 refunds from 12 stores for an identical throw priced at £49.99.
Homebase stores yielded £3,623 in refunds although Kaur only spent £384 in them. At M&S stores in Swindon, Chippenham and Bristol she obtained refunds of £3,300 with 37 credit vouchers for returned goods.
Mr Weetman said Kaur also perpetrated frauds on eight firms of solicitors and also on Wiltshire Council and her heating fuel supplier. She instructed the law firms to sue her brother for money and used male accomplices to make payments to the firms with stolen credit cards. The firm then forwarded money to her before the frauds were uncovered.
In October 2018 and again in September 2019, Kaur was sent notices of intended prosecution for speeding offences on the A417 in Gloucestershire but claimed that other people were driving. She sent details for the alleged drivers and as a result both charges against her were dropped.
Finally, said the prosecutor, Kaur failed to be deterred by being caught and charged with her catalogue of offences - she repeatedly lied to courts to get changes in her bail conditions for medical appointments, using forged letters and emails from doctors, so she could go stealing again.
In Dunelm in Swindon - when she was supposedly having a medical procedure - she raised suspicions when she tried to get a refund and was arrested. Her home was searched and police found 49 shopping bags full of goods and £108,000 in cash.
Later, during another relaxation of her bail conditions, she went to Asda in Bromsgrove and tried to get a refund she was not entitled to. Her home was searched again on June 15, 2021, and police found 21 Oral B toothbrushes and £4,000 in cash in a carrier bag. There was a total of £38,000 around the house.
After the jury found Kaur guilty last week of all the charges against her Judge Ian Lawrie KC said it would be a "mammoth sentencing exercise".
He ordered a pre-sentence report on Kaur and remanded her in custody until a date to be fixed after warning her that she would also be facing a proceeds of crime hearing in due course, when the court will decide by how much she benefited from crime and what assets she has available for confiscation.
Anthony Montgomery, defending, said Kaur has already had a lengthy period in custody on remand and later had been on bail but had not offended again in that time.
Judge Lawrie interjected: “The possibility of Kaur receiving a custodial sentence that could be suspended is highly unlikely as she will be receiving a substantial prison term.
“I am not granting Kaur bail today as she can start serving her sentence now for the broad sweep of convictions she faces. Her world has changed significantly having been found guilty of all 26 charges."
A sentencing date for Kaur is yet to be fixed.
The judge reminded the jury panel of eight men and three women that they had been hearing evidence in this case since November 8 last year and told them that they will be excused from jury service for the rest of their lives.
“I want to applaud you all for your dedication to this trial," he said. "You’ve all gone above and beyond the call of duty. You were called up to do jury service for just a few weeks, but you’ve sat in the cramped jury box for the past few months.
“You’ve shown extraordinary patience in dealing with the tasks in hand. A lot happens behind the scenes and you’ve seen the mountain of paperwork that has been produced to conduct this trial.
“It’s not been a straightforward case. It has had a lot of complications throughout the duration, yet you are all still smiling.
“All of you are a great reflection of the jury system which has been in existence for 1,000 years, I hope it runs for another 1,000 years.
“I know the experience of being a juror has been frustrating, especially as a number of you have faced a number of personal changes like losing employment or obtaining a new job.
“You are living proof that the jury system works and the court sends its collective thanks to each of you. I hope that you will all return for the sentence hearing for Kaur, whenever the date is fixed.”