Mum's massive £180,000 scam uncovered after a £37 shopping trip at B&Q
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A law-breaking mum who stole £180,000 was busted when a shopping trip to B&Q uncovered her entire operation.
It all started when mum Tracy Ellis was hired to work at the building contractor company Ingham and Garner Ltd in 2013, after which she became 'solely responsible' for the company's accounts.
Ellis, 52, was tasked with paying invoices and looking after petty cash at the Prescot-based company, and for a few years she took on the task, with her employers none the wiser to what eventually started going on behind the scenes.
According to information given in Liverpool Crown Court this week, it wasn't until 9 May, 2022, that company director Jennifer Burrows first spotted a bizarre transaction on a statement for the business account.
Burrows noticed that the account had been used at B&Q in St Helens the previous day, for a purchase worth £37.80.
As Burrows and Ellis were the only two people who had the pin number for the card, Burrows confronted Ellis, but the mum 'suggested it might have been another employee' who'd used it.
Ellis then changed her story, claiming she had made the purchase but 'it had been an accident and she had mistaken the company card for her own'.
Burrows checked the account again and found that Ellis had repaid the sum, but she also noticed a number of other suspicious transactions, including a £300 cash withdrawal, which had taken place in the previous weeks.
The director also found a record of a payment which stated funds had been transferred to Ellis' personal bank account, so a full internal investigation was launched.
Those investigating the accounts discovered that Ellis had stolen a total of £181,958.95 from the company in 139 separate transactions dating back to January 2017.
The payments had been made into 12 separate accounts, including those of Ellis' family members.
Ellis was fired from the company before being taken to court, where she admitted fraud by abuse of position.
In a statement, Burrows described the ordeal as 'really stressful', noting that those working at the company were 'friends to Tracy'.
Ellis had no previous convictions, with her defence lawyer, Andrew McInnes, saying: "She has clearly been a good and supportive friend but for some reason it seems she has taken a destructive path, leading to the defendant's shame before the court. She is terrified at the prospect of what might follow.
"There is a history of anxiety and depression following the birth of her first son. There is a suggestion of low mood.
"That depression was exacerbated by the deaths of her mother and sister within weeks in 2014. She assumed responsibility for her niece."
McInnes said Ellis had been 'living some sort of fantasy', and said she was 'extremely remorseful' for her actions.
"It is hard to envisage a woman like Tracy Ellis before this court at all, let alone in these circumstances for such a significant amount of money," he added.
"She has clearly taken a foolish and criminal decision at a low point in her life, which has snowballed out of control - she buried her head in the sand for many years."
Ellis has been jailed for two years and eight months, but she is set to return to court later this year, when she could be ordered to repay the money she stole.