A DIRECTOR of a Yorkshire garden centre said today his firm had been “lucky to survive” after its company secretary embezzled £160,000 from its accounts.
Lynda Whalley, who had worked for the company for 25 years, falsified accounts for nearly a decade in order to buy a new kitchen worth £4,500 and an all-inclusive holiday, a court heard.
Whalley, 64, was jailed for 32 months and ordered her to pay a third of the cash within three months.
After the hearing, her former employer Andrew Walmsley called her theft “sickening beyond belief”.
Mr Walmsley, who runs ACW Garden Centre in Bradford and a sister company in Bingley, said: “I trusted her. I even invited her to my own wedding.”
He added: “For years we were just wondering what was going wrong - one of our companies was doing really well and the other wasn’t.
“I began thinking it was me, what I was doing, whether or not it was my management. But now we know why.”
Bradford Crown Court heard Whalley’s deceit was uncovered last November when accountants found two faked invoices for £950.
Prosecutor Mark Brookes said: “The defendant then came clean and had a meeting with Mr Walmsley and two other executives, where she paid the money back, along with a letter of her resignation.
“But when the company looked further into it - there was a lot more money that was not accounted for. She was then arrested and admitted the full amount of £165,994 being fraudulently taken.”
Recorder David Dixon told her: “We have heard that you spent some money on a kitchen and a holiday you bought yourself - but where is the rest of it?
“You were trusted to hold the bank cards and passwords to these accounts for years. And stealing this amount equals to roughly £18,500 each year.
“That is a large amount of money for a small and medium sized business to lose year upon year.”
Whalley, of Allerton, Bradford, admitted theft at an earlier hearing.