Mum-of-two Vicki Fortune began funnelling thousands of pounds into her own accounts after joining the construction business which has worked on Westminster Palace
Image: Will Dax/Solent News)
A finance boss embezzled more than £60,000 and spent it on flights, holidays, and designer shoes just weeks after being hired.
‘Greedy’ Vicki Fortune began funnelling thousands of pounds into her own accounts after joining the construction business which has worked on Westminster Palace.
The company plunged into financial difficulties due to her 15-month fraud campaign but the 42-year-old ‘spared no thought’ for colleagues at risk of losing their jobs as she booked weekends away on Expedia.
She was finally caught by a junior accounts worker.
The mum of two teenage boys blamed her swindle on being cash-strapped after a divorce and said she owed bailiffs £20,000, but a judge ruled she was driven by her greed and ‘any source of money was vulnerable’.
Fortune, from Waterlooville, Hampshire, joined family business Architectural Louvre Products & Services (ALPS) in Havant, Hampshire, as financial controller in 2018 and within a month was appointed company secretary.
Will Dax/Solent News)
She had ‘extensive responsibilities’, prosecutor Matthew Lawson told Portsmouth Crown Court.
He said: “As one of the most senior positions, she had overall responsibility for the accounts and was given full access to their bank accounts and credit cards.
“Despite the trust placed upon her, within a few weeks of joining she began embezzling money from the company.”
Fortune used company credit cards, falsified payments so money was sent to her four accounts and duplicated invoices as part of her fraud.
She stole a total of £61,764 between August 2018 and December 2019, with over £4,500 going on flights, shoes, meals and presents.
Newly-hired financial assistant Abigail Mayor uncovered the fraud and reported it to director Mark Platten.
Mr Platten told the court it caused the business serious cash flow issues, caused negative relationships with suppliers and left the company so short of cash it could not pay staff or provide bonuses.
Fortune’s offending crippled the company’s finances going into the Covid-19 pandemic and it had to lay four people off.
Will Dax/Solent News)
Staff are still at risk of redundancy, Mr Platten said. “It’s caused a lot of stress trying to make sure the business could continue trading, it’s been very testing.”
Jason Halsey, defending, said Fortune was left short on money after a divorce and was ‘remorseful’.
He said: “Problems piled up… It left her very short and she was looking after two children and she ended up renting.
“She said it was never her intention to keep the money and she would pay it back but she got too deep and the addiction became too much so she could not tell anyone.
“She admitted that she was out of control and greedy.”
Fortune has made offers to ALPS to start paying money back in monthly instalments.
Judge Timothy Mousley QC jailed her for 16 months.
He said: “Any source of money for you was vulnerable to your dishonesties and it doesn’t look like you held back from the amount you were looking to steal.
“You had a high degree of trust imposed on you and these were blatant breaches.
“You got away with it until a financial assistant discovered what was going on.
“Some of the money was spent on holidays and expensive purchases.
“It was a sophisticated fraud and had you not been discovered I’m quite sure you would have continued to defraud your employers.
“It seems to me as you went about stealing this money you never spared a thought for other employees whose jobs were put at risk.”
Judge Mousley QC said Fortune may have been £20,000 in debt to bailiffs, but she ‘went past that point’ and was being ‘greedy’.
Fortune admitted fraud by false representation.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.