Em­bez­zling sec­re­tary paid £75k to hus­band

And pros­e­cu­tors claim she took half a mil­lion

Stirling Observer - - FRONT PAGE - Court re­porter

A solic­i­tors’ sec­re­tary who fid­dled her firm’s books to over­pay her hus­band by £75,000 dodged jail this week.

But Karen Humphries of McAlpine Court, Tulli­body, is now to face pro­ceeds of crime pro­ceed­ings for more than £500,000 of al­legedly ill-got­ten gains.

The 47-year-old’s job in­cluded pay­ing fi­nan­cial sales ad­vi­sors work­ing for mort­gage and in­vest­ment bro­kers Solic­i­tors Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Al­loa.

The role in­cluded pay­ing and record­ing the com­mis­sion due to mem­bers of the free­lance sales team, which in­cluded her 50-year-old hus­band John.

In July 2016 the com­pany’s an­nual ac­counts, which were ex­pected to show a healthy profit, sud­denly swung into loss and au­di­tors were called in.

Checks showed that be­tween Fe­bru­ary 2013 and July 2016 Humphries had over­paid her hus­band by a to­tal of £75,000.

She was con­fronted and re­signed and po­lice were called in.

Told that over­pay­ments had been found, she replied af­ter cau­tion: “That would be cor­rect.”

She pleaded guilty to em­bez­zling £75,000. She had orig­i­nally been charged with em­bez­zling over £106,000.

Ruaraidh Ferguson, pros­e­cut­ing, said: “Over the time Karen Humphries worked for SFS she ex­clu­sively had re­spon­si­bil­ity for mak­ing pay­ments to the fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sors, amongst mak­ing other trans­ac­tions.

“The of­fence was dis­cov­ered as a re­sult of the an­nual ac­counts be­ing checked in July 2016. De­spite SFS ex­pect­ing to have gen­er­ated a profit, the ac­counts showed a loss and an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was launched.

“It re­vealed that one fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor had been sig­nif­i­cantly over­paid. This was John Humphries, the hus­band of the ac­cused.

“He was the only fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor to be over­paid.”

Humphries was ar­rested at her home and taken to Falkirk Po­lice Sta­tion.

Stir­ling Sher­iff Court heard £54,000 had since been re­paid.

Ad­vo­cate Tony Lene­han, de­fend­ing, said the £75,000 rep­re­sented com­mis­sion on sales that had not been booked and was a re­sult of Humphries “run­ning ahead of her­self ”.

He said she was “a lady hith­erto held in high re­gard by all who knew her who now finds her­self in the shame of this sit­u­a­tion”.

Sher­iff David Mackie told Humphries she had pleaded guilty to a se­ri­ous of­fence “which un­doubt­edly mer­its a cus­to­dial sen­tence”.

But he added: “That’s not go­ing to hap­pen to­day and I will ex­plain why.”

He said Humphries had no pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions and car­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for her el­derly par­ents.

He added: “There’s some force in the sub­mis­sion made on your be­half that this was an of­fence which you de­vel­oped. It was some­thing that grew and you lost con­trol of, rather than a scheme which you de­vised at the out­set.

“But, hav­ing started, it turned into a mon­ster.”

He sen­tenced Humphries to 300 hours of un­paid com­mu­nity work, or­dered her to re­pay her for­mer em­ploy­ers the re­main­ing £21,000 within 10 months, and placed her un­der su­per­vi­sion for 12 months.

Humphries, how­ever, faces a mas­sive claim that dwarfs the sum she ad­mit­ted em­bez­zling. Her plea trig­gered action un­der the Pro­ceeds of Crime Act and the Crown is seek­ing a con­fis­ca­tion or­der for more than £500,000 al­legedly taken by Humphries, who had worked for Solic­i­tors’ Fi­nan­cial Servies for 13 years.

Mr Ferguson, the de­pute fis­cal, said: “The re­cov­er­able amount re­lates to funds that the Crown al­lege comes from gen­eral crim­i­nal con­duct.”

The pro­ceeds of crime action was con­tin­ued un­til Novem­ber 12.

Leav­ing court Karen Humphries and hus­band John

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