Dereham woman jailed for 12 months after stealing from Norfolk County Council

Norwich Crown Court. Norwich Crown Court.

Saturday, January 18, 2014
6:30 AM

A convicted fraudster, who was given a suspended jail term for stealing more than £72,000 from her employer, then got a job with Norfolk County Council and stole more than £1000 from petty cash, a court heard.

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Rebecca Wellbelove, 34, got the job with the council through an agency and when she later came under investigation for the fraud involving her previous employer Exheat Ltd, in Watton, Norwich Crown Court heard she failed to tell anyone in the council about the matter.

Chris Youell, prosecuting, said that Wellbelove was employed by the council to work as part of the Dereham based team of the Drugs Intervention Project, and said it was only when a member of staff read in the paper about the defendant, who got an 18 month suspended jail term for the fraud, that the council launched its own investigation and found that £1100 was missing from petty cash.

Mr Youell said Wellbelove was later arrested and told police that she had taken the cash as her bank accounts had been frozen during the investigation and she needed money for her family.

“She said she did not tell her employers that she had been dismissed and was being investigated.”

He said that Wellbelove, who had previously worked as an accountant, for the family firm Exheat, had stolen the cash from the company pension fund between 2008 and 2011 and written cheques out to herself.

He said Wellbelove, who by then got the job with the county council, said she used the cash to pay bills and day-to-day living and Mr Youell said there were no assets to pay back any cash.

Wellbelove of Brunswick Close, Dereham, admitted seven counts of theft from Norfolk County Council between April 2012 and February, last year.

The charges include the theft of a bank statements belonging to Norfolk County Council, which she had taken and destroyed to try to cover up her offences.

Jailing her for 12 months, Judge Mark Lucraft told her the money she had taken from the county council was public money and said she was in breach of trust.

“The matter is aggravated by your previous conviction as you committed offences while on bail.”

However he said he would not impose the full amount of the suspended sentence she had breached.

John Morgans, for Wellbelove, who was crying in the dock, said the offences involving the county council were in part caused because of the difficulties of the fraud involving Exheat.

“She does wish she had found the courage to admit these offences during the investigation, but she simply could not.”

He said that she was full of remorse and was worried about the effect any custodial sentence would have on her family

He said she had been trying to save some money to pay back cash to the county council.

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