CFO jailed for robbing Witheridge company

10:32 am on April 15, 2021

A shady CFO has been jailed for stealing £ 877,000 from a design firm that was forced to lay off staff over their fraud.

Clare Roberts enjoyed the complete trust of company founder Helen Moore and used her position to steal around £ 100,000 a year for almost a decade.

She used the money to take her unemployed husband and two sons on expensive vacations and to pay off debts, her son’s college fees and his mother’s mortgage.

She stole so much from Witheridge-based Moore and Moore Design that she went from employing 50 people and being the biggest employer in the village to being on the verge of collapse.

Roberts funneled money into bank accounts on behalf of her husband and son and even set up one with the name of L&G so she could divert retirement payments that should have been made to the company. Legal and General insurance.

She lied over and over again to 76-year-old manager Ms Moore, whom she persuaded to borrow more and more money from family, friends and the bank, which was stolen as soon as she arrived in the company’s accounts.

Ms Moore read a victim impact statement in Exeter court, recounting how she and her family were devastated by the thefts and ended up with debts she will never be able to repay.

She said: “She put on hundreds of thousands of pounds while her coworkers were laid off and managed to give everyone a sense of integrity.

“It had a devastating impact on our family. We all trusted her for eight years as she tore our business up, brick by brick.

“We have nothing to show after 40 years of hard work. A wonderful business has been brought to its knees by the greed of an individual, I am ashamed to have been duped.

Roberts, 50, of Langley Gardens, Chulmleigh, admitted two counts of fraud and was jailed for four years by Judge David Evans.

He told her, “You have used your position of trust and your access to the company’s financial system to systematically withdraw money from their accounts and transfer it to yours.

“You took the best part of £ 1million. Your dishonesty is surprising in its depth and persistence. You have actively chosen to steal and cheat every time you’ve made money or made arrangements, and every time you’ve covered it up afterwards.

Prosecutor Lee Bremridge said Moore and Moore were a successful household furniture manufacturing company that was Witheridge’s biggest employer before it was nearly destroyed by the Roberts scam.

She joined in December 2010 as an accountant, but was promoted to CFO and started stealing large amounts within months.

She was only arrested because the bank suggested that Ms Moore bring in an outside CFO. Roberts tried to cover up his fraud by withholding accounts, but it eventually came to light.

Roberts explained her frequent expensive vacations by telling Ms Moore that she had won them or competitions or was being paid for by an indemnity paid to her husband.

She spent many hours with Ms Moore discussing the future of the business and urging her to borrow more money without suggesting that her thefts were the real cause of her problems.

Mr Bremridge said there will be no forfeiture of the proceeds of crime because all the money has been spent and Roberts has no assets.

Defending Mr Peter Lownds said Roberts was in heavy debt when she started stealing and was depressed when she committed much of the fraud.

He said she had a lot of remorse and wanted to repay the community by working in care after her release from prison.

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