£200,000 fraudster jailed for fourth time

FRAUDBS''Pauline Preston, aged 53, of Stannington.
FRAUDBS''Pauline Preston, aged 53, of Stannington.

A SERIAL fraudster who brazenly stole £200,000 from her employers is today waking up behind bars for the fourth time in 12 years.

Pauline Preston, aged 53, of Oldfield Road, Stannington, was yesterday jailed for three years for her latest offences, including transferring a massive sum of her employer’s money into her account.

Sheffield Crown Court heard she had served time in jail for swindling vulnerable care home residents out of £6,000, stealing an elderly woman’s ring and using other people’s credit cards for £11,000 of her own shopping.

On this occasion she switched her bank details with those of her employers, Maple Syrup Media Ltd, so that money meant for the company ended up in her account. She was sent £200,000 - and spent nearly £9,000 in little over a week.

Another £27,000 was in the process of being transferred when the police arrested her.

Prosecutor Beverley Tait said Preston, who was a sales rep, stole the money on February 1 after her employers put her out of a job.

When she was arrested she immediately admitted taking the money.

“She said she had been made redundant, it was a big shock and she was angry about that,” Ms Tait said.

“She said she never realised the amount that would go into her account.”

Preston pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud for diverting money paid by Progressive Media Ltd and Web Gains Ltd. She admitted stealing a laptop belonging to Maple Syrup Media.

The firm owns internet shopping website Quidco.com. The two diverted fund transfers were commission for selling other firms’ goods.

Judge Alan Goldsack QC, handing down the three-year-sentence, said: “You are a very dishonest lady - and have been for the last 20 years.

“The offence constituted a substantial breach of trust.”

Preston, wearing a blue floral dress and black cardigan, bowed as the sentence was read.

Judge Goldsack said: “It is a matter of surprise that you were employed without any references or background checks, but that’s not a licence to steal.”

He said it was the fourth time Preston had received a jail-term from Sheffield Crown Court for deception.

In 1999, working in a care home, she was given a six-month sentence for stealing a valuable ring from a vulnerable elderly woman. She received a 21-month term in 2006 for stealing £6,000 from patients in another care home. In 2007, working as a receptionist cashier at A Bennett Controls in Attercliffe, she was given a 20-month sentence for taking £11,000 from customers’ credit cards.

Defence barrister Amanda Denton said Preston used £8,765 to pay council tax and credit card bills. She said: “She hoped she would get some money out of it to alleviate some of her debts and provide some respite.”