A Chesterfield woman who stole almost £50,000 from her employers has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.
Tracey Ann O’Malley - formerly Tracey Croucher - stole the money from three companies owned by Fergus Lui in Clay Cross over the space of nine years.
When the fraud was eventually uncovered, O’Malley - of Quarry Lane, North Anston - first tried to blame others and then faked memory loss in her attempts to avoid punishment.
Passing sentence at Derby Crown Court on Friday, Judge Robert Egbuna said: “I take no pleasure in sentencing a woman of your age to prison - especially one who has never been there before.
“But you were in a position of trust - the company felt that without you they would fall apart.
“And the fraud you committed was highly sophisticated and needed significant planning.”
Judge Egbuna said that as O’Malley had begun to realise people were on to her, she began trying to cover her tracks.
First, she searched the internet for the logos of companies that were no longer in existence and on which she could pin the blame.
Later, she forged a document that purported to show she had loaned the company £10,000 which she could take back as and when she liked.
“When it was proving impossible for you to find a way out, what do you do,” asked Judge Egbuna.
“You say you have fallen down some stairs and have lost your memory having previously searched the internet for information on how to fake memory loss.”
Later still, O’Malley would attempt to pin the blame on the owner of the businesses and his nephew and, at trial, produced an ‘obviously forged’ document in a last ditch attempt to clear her name.
Judge Egbuna said that because of her repeated attempts to cover up her crimes he had no choice but to impose a lengthy custodial sentence of three and a half years behind bars.
Earlier, prosecuting barrister Andrew Vout had read out a victim impact statement from the director of the companies O’Malley stole from, Fergus Liu.
In it he said he had ‘suffered emotionally’ and had been under ‘immense stress’ that had affected his wellbeing.
Mr Liu also said that he had ‘struggled to keep himself together’ before and during the trial and that his marriage had been affected as a result.
The Judge said that the fact that the fraud had begun at a time when the firm was in financial difficulties and had continued after Mr Liu was diagnosed with cancer made O’Malley’s actions even more deplorable.