Credit card fraudster from Stevenage who stole from her charity employer DisabledGo narrowly avoids jail

Stevenage Magistrates Court

Stevenage Magistrates Court - Credit: Archant

A pregnant mum-of-two who stole more than £2,400 from the disabled charity she worked for has been handed a suspended prison sentence.

Emma Louise Bennett of Archer Road, Stevenage, pleaded guilty to one count of theft at the town’s magistrates court.

The court heard the 36-year-old used a company credit card at DisabledGO in Stevenage to pay for holiday spending money, cigarettes and travel costs she was meant to claim as expenses.

Bennett was told when she started work at the charity in April last year that the credit card should only be used for hire cars, and that relevant receipts had to be provided each time.

But charity’s bosses discovered that between July 28 and October 5 last year there were ‘a lot of discrepancies’ in Bennett’s use of the card which she had not given receipts for.

Between September 8 and October 2 she also borrowed another credit card from a colleague who was off sick, and used it to make three unauthorised cash withdrawals.

The thefts took place when Bennett was already serving a community order imposed for a ‘similar case of dishonesty’ committed previously.

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This order had been revoked on October 27 on grounds of ‘good progress’.

When Bennett was arrested in November she said she wasn’t aware she couldn’t make cash withdrawals and had often bought items like tea and coffee for the office with the cards. She said she had been too busy to do her credit card accounting.

But she had spent £371 on holiday expenses, and the cards were used to pay for fuel to get to work commitments because she couldn’t afford to wait two weeks to claim it on expenses.

The court was asked to take her guilty plea into account and the fact that she was facing ‘difficult’ circumstances at the time.

In mitigation, her lawyer admitted that it was not sophisticated to use a credit card that’s in your name to make purchases, and she knew that the offences would come to light.

Magistrates were told that Bennett was in a difficult financial situation and her job required her to travel long distances.

The court heard Bennett was struggling financially as her partner had been diagnosed with a degenerative spine condition and was on benefits. Her wages were £1,100 per month, of which she had to pay £700 rent.

Sentencing Bennett, chairman of the bench Nicholas Moss said: “You had an employer who trusted you to behave honestly and you broke that trust.

“That is a serious matter. In addition this was a second offence of dishonesty. Not only that, but it was committed while you were serving a crown court order which was wrongly revoked.”

Bennett was given a six-week prison sentence – suspended for 18 months – and was ordered to pay £2,414 compensation to DisabledGo, which has offices on the Arlington Business Park in Whittle Way.

She will have to pay £10 per fortnight while she remains on benefits.