University of East Anglia worker warned she could face jail over £50,000 theft

PUBLISHED: 16:45 09 April 2014 | UPDATED: 16:45 09 April 2014

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An administrator at the University of East Anglia has been warned she could face jail after admitting stealing more than £50,000, when she appeared at Norwich Crown Court.

Sophie O’Hara, 26, of Shipstone Road, Norwich, pleaded guilty to one charge of theft of the cash from the UEA.

The offences was committed at the Norwich-based university between March 2012 and October 2013, and it is believed that she obtained the cash by forging student expenses forms.

O’Hara, who was smartly dressed in a grey suit, had her case adjourned until May 7, for full reports but Judge Stephen Holt warned her that all sentencing options, including prison, would be open to the court.

He told her it was essential she co-operated with probation over her report and said: “You have pleaded guilty to a serious matter.”

Her barrister Michael Clare, said that O’Hara suffered from bipolar disorder and was of previous good character.

Chris Youell prosecuting, also asked that a confiscation hearing into O’Hara’s assets be set for a later date as he said investigations had to be carried out as to where all the cash had gone.

“Police are trying to find where the £50,000 has gone. I don’t think she has too many assets but we need to know what they are.”

After the case a UEA spokesman said: “The university is aware that a former member of staff has pleaded guilty to charges of fraud relating to her time working at UEA.

“Following an inconsistency in a claim form, the university’s internal investigation procedures uncovered the activity and the member of staff was immediately suspended. A full internal investigation was carried out alongside police investigations.”

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