A grandmother who embezzled more than £1.5m from her employer’s business has been jailed for 40 months.
Coleen Muirhead paid for expensive holidays and bought cars and caravans after stealing the money over a six year period.
A judge told the 55-year-old a prison sentence was appropriate given the massive breach of trust and scale of the crime.
Lord Fairley told her she would have faced a five year jail term but it would be modified to three years and four months imprisonment following her guilty plea.
The judge said he had noted childhood trauma experienced by the first offender mentioned in a background report.
She earlier admitted embezzling £1,524,192.37 while employed at Panda Rosa Metals, Canal Road, Aberdeen between June 2015 and October 2021.
As Muirhead’s crime was uncovered she wrote to a colleague and said: “Police have just raided! So I will need a visitor in jail! Please don’t think the worst of me.”
When the colleague expressed confusion Muirhead responded: “Don’t be I have taken the money am so sorry.”
Muirhead, of Farquhar Road, Aberdeen, a mother of four and grandmother to seven, admitted to police after her arrest that she was responsible for creating false accounts and stealing the money from the firm.
Defence solicitor advocate Kris Gilmartin said: “On the face of it it is difficult to fathom why the offence was committed. She was previously a law abiding citizen.”
But Mr Gilmartin said the social work report prepared on her set out “significant childhood trauma” and difficulties in her upbringing.
“She had used alcohol and gambling as a coping mechanism,” he told the court.
He said that following the death of her father her drinking and gambling increased as did her offending.
Mr Gilmartin said: “This offending behaviour started off as a small matter and escalated quickly.”
He said: “The report makes clear she is remorseful and she regrets the offending. She acknowledges she has brought shame to her family.”
He said she sought to apologise to the McAllister family, who own and operate the business, who gave her employment in their firm.
Mr Gilmartin said: “She is fearful of custody, but accepts she committed the offence and requires to be punished.”
The court heard that the metal recycling firm ran two sites in Aberdeen and Muirhead worked with the firm as an administrative assistant since July 2014.
Prosecutor David Dickson said scrap metal was brought to the sites by firms and individuals and weighed. A ticket was produced which was sent to staff who provided an advice note of materiels, weight and price. Sellers then sent an invoice for payment.
Mr Dickson said: “During the course of the years following the accused beginning employment with Panda Rosa, another employee, who was responsible to for instructing payment of the accused’s wages, became aware that she went on expensive holidays with her family, paid for a full table at a charity event, purchased alcohol for those attending the event and bought new motor vehicles.”
“The accused also told her that she had paid for her son’s wedding, had purchased static caravans and had set up ISAs for her grandchildren,” said the advocate depute.
Her embezzlement came to light after a senior partner in the firm reviewed records and concluded that something was not right. She began looking for information for “G Anderson” who appeared to be a significant customer but turned out to be an invention of Muirhead.
Police were contacted and a systematic search of her home was carried out. Mr Dickson said: “Documents in relation to credit cards, financial letters relating to the purchase of motor cars and motorcycles, documentation relating to ISAs for family members, £2,312 in cash, £3,300 in gift vouchers and documentation in relation to the purchase of two static caravans to the value £78,077 were recovered.”
The Crown has brought an action to seize crime proceeds from Muirhead and a first hearing in the case is due to take place in January next year.
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