Accountant's fraud from Durham estate agents came to light when she was off work after Crufts' dog attack

The Northern Echo: Louise Nelson seen leaving court after earlier appearance over fraud offences from Durham estate agents Louise Nelson seen leaving court after earlier appearance over fraud offences from Durham estate agents

UNAUTHORISED ‘transactions’ made by an estate agent deputy accountant only came to light when she was off work after being attacked at Crufts dog show.

A stand-in filling in for Louise Nelson at Placenorth Ltd discovered 11 payments were made to her own building society and other accounts for amounts totalling £10,123.47, between January 2012 and last February.

Bosses at the small family-owned company, based at Meadowfield, near Durham, wrote to her, without reply, and dismissed her for misconduct in August.

Durham Crown Court heard that Nelson was arrested in September and made immediate admissions, revealing the offending began when she faced eviction, “due to the position she found herself in”, following a divorce.

Paul Currer, prosecuting, said she told police she had debts of about £75,000 and originally intended paying back the company, but, “things got out of control”, as her former home was compulsory purchased.

Thirty-three-year-old Nelson, of Highfields, Tow Law, County Durham, who is of previous good character, admitted 11 counts of fraud by abuse of position.

Thomas Laffey, mitigating, said the offences were committed towards the end of her five years with Placenorth, after her salary was reduced from £20,000 to £16,000, due to the recession, in 2010.

“The whole basis of her outgoings and financial commitments was based on a salary suddenly reduced by £4,000.

“She took out credit cards to pay bills, but it became a vicious circle as she struggled to keep her head above water.

“The offending went on just over 12 months but it was bound to come back to bite her.

“It’s an unfortunate choice of words as she was quite seriously injured in the dog attack, losing the use of her right hand and also suffering a leg injury which requires further surgery.”

Mr Laffey said the only means of Nelson repaying Placenorth is from the compensation she will eventually receive, although the dog owner only just went before a court for the first time in Birmingham this week.

Recorder Ian Atherton said it appeared she was “too proud” to outline her financial difficulties to her employer or family.

He said, given her early admissions, an immediate custodial sentence would be “futile”, as it would only be for a matter of weeks and he could not order unpaid work due to her injuries from the dog attack.

She was given an eight-week prison sentence, suspended for a year, during which she will be supervised by the Probation Service.

The Recorder also made a £10,123 compensation order, but without a time limit for her to repay Placenorth.

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