An accounts department employee at the long-established Coventry firm Cash’s, famed for making nametags and labels, stole more than £120,000 and paid it into her partner’s account.
A judge at Warwick Crown Court heard that grasping Kerry Graham’s thefts amounted to the equivalent of a month’s wages bill for the whole company.
But Graham and her partner Matthew Gibbs, who lived at an address in Coventry at the time, both escaped being jailed for the sake of their young son.
Graham (39) now of Manor Rise, Chiseldon, near Swindon, who pleaded guilty to theft, was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for two years and ordered to do 240 hours of unpaid work.
Gibbs (36) of the same address, who had admitted a charge of money laundering, was given a 14-month sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work.
Prosecutor Glyn Samuel said the thefts took place over a 14-month period, and involved a total of 42 transfers from Cash’s business account into Gibbs’s bank account.
The long-established company, famed for making nametags, had started off in 1846 weaving ribbons, and in the 1980s it had a staff of around 150 people, which had reduced to 60 by 2014.
A good degree of its business was with the far East, and when the business went into administration in 2014 it was bought out by the Chinese company Jointak, with which it had traded.
Graham had worked for Cash’s since 2009 as a bookkeeper, and although she was one of 50 employees who were laid off when it went into administration, she was then re-employed.
Her initial role was to make sure bills were paid, and she later had responsibility for salaries as well, but by late 2017 she was having increasing amounts of time off through sickness and got behind with her work.
There was a review early last year, and a couple of unusual transactions on the firm’s debit card were spotted, which led to it being replaced, but she kept on stealing money.
She was dismissed in April for negligence after she had gone home leaving the safe keys and the debit card on her desk, after which her dishonesty came to light.
She had stolen the money by hiding transfers from Cash’s business account into Gibbs’s account among multiple legitimate payments to genuine companies, sometimes doing so using another employee’s log-in details.
And the amounts she transferred, which were never for round sums to avoid them arousing suspicion, frequently mirrored genuine payments she made at the same time, said Mr Samuel.
Altogether over a 15-month period Graham stole £127,677 which operations manager Garry Powles said represented more than a month’s salary bill for the whole company.
Michael Chambers, defending, said: “Both defendants recognise the impact of their behaviour on others and the breach of trust.”
He said the couple have since moved to Swindon to find work for Gibbs and ‘to get as far away from Coventry as possible to cut all ties with the mess they got themselves into,’ and they have kicked the drug habit they had.
Urging the judge not to jail them, he argued: “The impact on the family of both parents, or even just Miss Graham, being jailed would be substantial and devastating on their son.”
She said that if they were both jailed, their son would have to relocate to live with a relative of Graham’s in Barnsley.
Sentencing them, Judge Peter Cooke told them: “Over a 15-month period the two of you conducted an aspect of your outwardly normal lives with thorough-going dishonesty.
“You were comprehensively stealing Miss Graham from the company which for many years had employed you and put you in a position of trust.
“No fewer than 42 times did you transfer money belonging to the company into your partner’s bank account so the two of you could finance your cocaine habits and debts.
“But you share important family responsibilities. That young lad of 11 has, through no fault of his, started today in dread that mum and dad will not be coming home. If you want a measure of how disgraceful your action is, that is it.”