July 25 2014 Latest news:
Peter Walsh, Crime correspondent
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
A former book-keeper at a doctors’ surgery stole more than £35,000 after falling into a ‘Wonga trap’ of not being able to repay payday loans, a court has heard.
Lynne Featherstone, of Bury Road, Thetford, stole a total of £35, 719.42 from Hadley Brown and Partners doctors surgery in Thetford.
The 44-year old, who started working at the surgery in 2006 as junior administrator but was promoted to book-keeper in 2008, “got into a mess” could not pay back pay day loans she had taken out and “got into more and more debt”.
Between September 2011 and February 2013 Featherstone, who had a card which gave her access to the business’s banking system, made 25 payments to her own personal bank account.
She covered the payments up by copying invoices and getting them signed off by the member of staff whose job it was to authorise payments.
Featherstone appeared at Norwich Crown Court yesterday to be sentenced after previously admitting fraud.
Sentencing Featherstone, Judge Nicholas Coleman, who described the defendant as a “thief”, said she had committed the offence while “in a position of trust” and had “abused that trust” in this “persistent course of conduct”.
He said: “It has an impact on patients at the surgery and your thoughtlessness could easily have affected patient care.
“One can only hope the surgery has been able to compensate itself for your stupidity.”
Judge Coleman sentenced Featherstone to 20months imprisonment, suspended for two years.
She was also given 18months supervision as part of a community order and ordered to undertake the Women’s Emotional Wellbeing specified requirement.
Chris Youell, prosecuting, said the fraud was not discovered until Featherstone had left the surgery.
She left in August last year to become a full-time carer to her parents, although her mother has since died.
Mr Youell said the defendant made efforts to “cover her tracks” by getting rid of some of the invoices.
He read a victim impact statement in which bosses of the surgery, which has six GPs and 20 full-time and part-time staff, described how the offence had caused a “considerable amount of distress” and had felt “very disappointed by her actions”.
The defendant did not approach anyone at the surgery to let them know of her financial difficulties.
John Farmer, mitigating, said she realises the position of trust she was in and “recognises the result of her breach of trust has let down the people who employed her and trusted her”.
Mr Farmer said the fraud was “not at all sophisticated” with the cover-up “very unsubtle” and “in reality no cover-up at all”.
Mr Farmer said the slide started after she “fell into a Wonga trap”, got unto a mess and was not able to manage her affairs.
He said: “This is not stealing to fund an extravagant lifestyle. This is stealing to stay afloat”.