1st Jul, 2022

Fraudster blew £370k of firm's cash on TV shopping

Editorial Correspondent 26th Nov, 2017 Updated: 27th Nov, 2017

A judge has said a finance assistant should not get a penny of her pension from the Coventry firm she defrauded out of more than £370,000 – which she blew on TV shopping channel purchases.

So consuming was Denise Clifford’s obsession that she left bagsful of her purchases outside charity shops, and hoarded most of the rest, some unopened, in the spare room of her home.

Despite the staggering extent of her dishonesty, earlier this year her barrister, QC Stephen Linehan, persuaded a judge at Warwick Crown Court not to send her immediately to prison.

Clifford (48) of Smorrell Lane, Bedworth, who had pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud in abuse of a position of trust was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for two years, and was ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work.

On that occasion a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act was adjourned for what turned out to be a lengthy investigation into her finances.

And at the resumed hearing, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC said he did not want Clifford to get a penny of her pension entitlement from the company she defrauded, Amtico International in Coventry.

Following an adjournment for further discussions to take place, prosecutor Ian Ball said it was agreed that Clifford’s total benefit from her dishonesty was £491,316.50.

Her assets came to a total of £89,127.50 – which he explained included £41,400 in pension equity release and £41,730 which represented her share in the equity on her home, with the rest made up from jewellery and other possessions.

So Judge Lockhart made a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act of £89,127.50 which he said was to be used to pay compensation to Amtico.

Clifford was given three months to pay or face 12 months in prison in default – after which she would still owe the money.

During the original hearing the court heard Clifford had been a finance assistant at Amtico, a flooring company with its head office in Kingfield Road, Coventry, for a number of years.

But in March last year it was discovered that large amounts of money, supposedly being paid to employees in expenses, had gone missing and been diverted to a single account.

That account was traced to Clifford, and following her arrest large numbers of items of jewellery, footwear, handbags and other purchases, many of them unopened, were found at her home.

When she was interviewed, she accepted submitting false expenses claims in the names of other employees which she got her managers to sign before diverting the payments to her own account.

Clifford, who was on £26,000 a year, explained that she had developed a shopping addiction, and spent night after night buying items on TV shopping channels and online sites.

Arguing that Clifford could be dealt with ‘outwith the guidelines,’ Mr Linehan said her compulsive buying had started in the mid-90s following the breakdown of a marriage.

After they put their marriage back together, her husband found she had run up debts on a credit card he did not know about.

He arranged to increase their mortgage to pay that off, and her salary went into a joint account so he could monitor her spending, but he didn’t realise she did not close her own account.

So when she returned to the compulsive shopping while her husband was working nights, and began stealing from her employers, she had an account into which she could divert the money.

“You will see that night after night this lady, alone in her home, was using shopping channels and buying these frankly worthless, useless items. She was driven by misery.

“She had no need for them. She either gave them away, left them in sacks outside charity shops, or stored them at her mother’s house and in the spare bedroom.”

Sentencing Clifford, Recorder Christopher Tickle told her: “You were left with a husband working nights, and you fell prey to a lonely life which led you to shopping channels.

“But in order to continue with your obsession, you stole from the company by altering expenses claims for other people which were eventually put through to your account.

“When such large sums of money go missing, one looks at high-days and holidays, but there was none of that in this case. You were buying loads and loads of shoes and handbags, and loads of worthless jewellery.”

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