A CROOKED accountant who stole almost £200,000 from the luxury shoe firm where she was in charge of the finances has been ordered to repay more than £140,000 of her ill-gotten gains.
Dale Ballance is currently serving a three-and-a-half year prison sentence for the deception she carried out while working for Leeds-based upmarket shoe and handbag firm Moda in Pelle.
Ballance, 45, paid for a lavish and decadent wedding to her husband and also bought a racehorse out of the proceeds of the fraud.
She was returned to Leeds Crown Court to face a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The court heard Ballance benefited to the tune of £314,671 as a result of her criminal activity. Katherine Robinson, prosecuting, said Ballance had seizable assets worth £146,421.
Judge Guy Kearl, QC, ordered that Ballance should pay the sum within three months.
She was warned that her sentence could be extended by up to 12 months if the amount is not paid within that period.
During the period of offending Ballance managed to persuade her employers to up her annual pay to £50,000.
Moda in Pelle has shops across the UK, including Leeds’s Victoria Quarter.
Ballance began working for the company as a management accountant in 2008, with a starting salary of £40,000.
She was also allowed to carry on operating her private accountancy firm at the same time.
The deception enabled her to buy a half-share in a racehorse called Sharadiyn for her husband.
She also paid for a wedding which included a ring-bearing owl called Olly and seven bridesmaids in what was described by the prosecution as a “lavish and decadent affair”.
Ballance also bought two wedding dresses and had no idea how much either of them cost.
The court heard she abused the trust placed in her by making cheques out to herself.
The deception came to light when she left the company after her employers refused to give her another pay rise.
Ballance continued to deny the offending and claimed the money was part of a secret bonus system which had been set up by her employers. She also accused her former bosses of committing perjury when they gave evidence at her trial. The jury rejected her claims and found her guilty of three offences of theft.
At her sentencing hearing last year, judge Kearl said: “This was systematic and persistent removal of a considerable amount of money. You were in a position of trust.
“Instead of repaying that trust with loyalty you manipulated the accounting ledgers in order to cover up your stealing.
“You did that by posting false entries in the ledgers so that the thefts could not be discovered after you left.
“Even when you were discovered, you lied to the other directors when they sought to meet to resolve the matters. You lied to the police and you lied to the jury.” The court heard the offending took place when Moda in Pelle was struggling financially.
The judge said: “The money was spent... on a high standard of living. You spent some of the money on what was described as a lavish wedding.
“It was one where many people attended. Some of the money would have gone towards that and what you spent on a racehorse which you obtained and then ran.”