A RECEPTIONIST who used a company credit card to make a string of luxury purchases but now lives on the “change in her purse” has been told she has narrowly avoided going straight to jail.

Beverley Reynolds said she believed she was using her own bank details when she hired a hot tub, bought VIP airport lounge access and paid off a holiday to the tune of £849 over five months.

Her former employers – a military air-conditioning contractor in Crook – discovered the purchases made on a company computer between February and June 2017.

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court heard Reynolds, of Greenways, in Sunnybrow, County Durham, has since lost her job, home and partner.

The 37-year-old previously pleaded not guilty to fraud by false representation in November, but changed her plea to guilty on Tuesday.

District Judge Tim Capstick addressed the mother-of-one and said: “When you were in the early part of your employment, when you were in financial difficulty, [your employers] lent you money and it was paid back through your wages.

“You used a company credit card in a betrayal of trust to buy luxury items – it wasn’t food and drink, it was VIP lounge access before you went on holiday, a hot tub for parties.

“You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself for treating the company as you have and for behaving in that way when they've trusted you.”

A probation report was produced ahead of Reynolds’ sentencing and revealed she had been diagnosed with a personality disorder and struggles with her mental health.

A probation officer said: “She says both the details for the company card and her card were on her computer. The bank details are in her name and she cannot understand how the company credit card details have been used.”

She added: “As a result of Chinese whispers, her ex-partner believed she had stolen £20,000 from the company and has limited access to her 14-year-old daughter.

“Her ex-employer contacted her landlord and informed her of what had happened and the landlady evicted her and her partner who then ended the relationship so she’s been living by herself for the last two to three months.

“However, she is waiting for a universal credit appointment so she is behind on her rent and may lose that accommodation – she has no money coming in.

“She says she has no heating or water in the property and the only food she has is what she had when she moved in to the accommodation. All she has is the change in her purse.”

District Judge Capstick stated her position was aggravated by a conviction for theft from a different employer in 2007.

Reynolds was given an 18-week prison sentence, suspended for a year, and must pay £500 in compensation to her ex-employer, CMCA.