Bookkeeper jailed for £250k theft

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A SHOPAHOLIC fraudster who almost caused a family business to go bust after she stole more than £250,000 has been jailed for 22 months.

Linda Kearney (51) embezzled huge sums of cash after she started working in the office of Access Mechanical Handling in Righead Industrial Estate, Bellshill.

She wrote false cheques to herself and family members and used the money to pay off debts on credit card and store card bills.

Her deception carried on for five-and-a-half years until a discrepancy led to bosses asking an accountant to investigate in May 2010.

The firm had to lay off staff and needed a cash injection from directors to survive.

Kearney, of John Muir Way, Motherwell, was sentenced at Hamilton Sheriff Court this week after she admitted embezzling £254,000.

Defence agent Jack Grant said Kearney was ashamed and blamed a failed relationship for her troubles.

He added: “She had been living in Fort William and got into a new relationship.

“However, she found that the man she was seeing was also having a relationship with someone else.

“As a consequence she found herself in Lanarkshire with two children.

“She was lucky enough to get a job, but she was in such dire financial circumstances that she took the first fraudulent cheque.

“That spiralled out of control. She bought things like clothes and shoes, but there were no fancy holidays and no boats.

“She is deeply ashamed and embarrassed.”

Emma Anderson, prosecuting, had earlier told the court of Kearney’s remorse after her guilt emerged.

Mrs Anderson said: “On several occasions she apologised to directors of the company, expressing regret for taking the money.

“She said she had forged her colleague’s signature and that person had no involvement.”

Access Mechanical Handling is a family-run business founded 25 years ago which describes itself as ‘Scotland’s best forklift trucks dealer’.

Director Mark Borthwick said: “Kearney has left a trail of destruction and ruined a lot of lives.”

Jailing Kearney, Sheriff David Bicket said: “There was a great sum of money involved.

“Your actions caused great difficulty for the people in your place of work. It almost brought the business to its knees.

“I cannot deal with this in any other way but with a custodial sentence.”

Kearney also faces a confiscation hearing in October under the Proceeds of Crime Act.