Woman who stole thousands from employer can only repay £100

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Ashley Mercury appeared for a confiscation hearing at Ipswich Crown Court. - Credit: Archant

An Ipswich woman who was spared another spell behind bars last year for stealing thousands of pounds from her employer for the second time is only able to repay £100 of the stolen money, a court has heard.

Last year 55-year-old Ashley Mercury, of Clarkson Street, Ipswich, was given a 14-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, with 150 hours of unpaid work and 25 day rehabilitation activity requirement after she admitted fraud by abuse of position.

Ipswich Crown Court heard that Mercury obtained £11,934 by dishonestly abusing her position as finance manager of automotive parts company Interex Ltd, in Needham Market, between April 22, 2018 and March 28, 2019.

The court heard that while working for Interex  Mercury had fraudulently refunded her own bank account for 18 non-existent orders worth £10,276.

On a further seven occasions, she funded car repairs worth £1,300 on the company account.

On Monday ( July 11) Mercury returned to the court for a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds Act which was told that the agreed benefit from her offending was £12,380.

Donal Lawlor, prosecuting, said Mercury was only in a position to repay £100 and Judge David Pugh made a compensation order in that sum.

At an earlier hearing the court was told that in August 2019 Mercury was jailed for 28 months for abusing a position of trust and disguising criminal property while she was employed as the finance manager of Ipswich-based First Strokes, which offered weekly swimming tuition to children.

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Between April 2016 and January 2018, then named Julie Jenkins, she deposited £32,145 into her own bank account in 57 unauthorised payments disguised in the company's computer accounting system.

In March last year Ed Renvoize, for Mercury, said she was interviewed by police  while she was approaching the end of her jail term and months after the latest offence was reported.

In an interview, Mercury admitted the offence and told police she had used the money to repay debts.

Mr Renvoize said Mercury's offending could be realistically viewed as one continuous enterprise, caused by a very particular set of circumstances, which led a woman of hitherto impeccable character to start dipping into the accounts.