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School Finance Manager sentenced for stealing over £180K

Thursday 5th December, 2019

A school Finance Manager has been sentenced to 32 months in prison for stealing over £188,000 from her employer to support a luxury lifestyle.

She was employed at Keswick School in Cumbria between 2008 until 2018, when she left to take up another financial position.

The fraud came to light in March 2019 following her departure, when another Finance Officer conducted an audit of the school bank accounts and supplier details.

The audit found that fake invoices from a firm called ‘Smiths' which had the bank details for her personal bank account. One school invoice was in fact paid to a travel firm when she had booked a £4,700 holiday for two to Antigua for ten days in November 2017.

She had also used the school credit card to order items from Amazon and to book other holidays and purchase £30,000 of foreign currency.

As a security measure, the school's policy was that dual signatures were required for all transactions, however, she had authorised payments using her signature alone, taking advantage of a fault in the banking software program.

Gerard Rogerson, for the CPS, said: Ghislain Smithson diverted money away from the school and the pupils in order to fund her own lifestyle, including foreign holidays and luxury items she could not legitimately afford.

"She faked invoices with bogus telephone numbers and VAT numbers from companies which no longer existed. She committed the offences over a number of years and even though this case is now concluded, the repercussions of her selfish actions will continue to affect the school for years to come."

"We worked closely with the police and the school to build a strong case against her, and when faced with the overwhelming evidence against her; she was left with no other option than to enter a guilty plea."