Accountant blamed theft from Hereford opticians on colleagues

AN ACCOUNTANT who stole more than £14,000 from the independent opticians where she was working made her colleagues feel “soiled and betrayed”, a court has heard.

Gemma Louise Fosbrook, 24, was working for BBR Optometry in Hereford in 2019 when she stole £14,322.61 over five months.

On April 20, Worcester Crown Court was told the opticians, in St Owen Street, only started to investigate when Fosbrook’s behaviour changed and she took days off work, prosecution barrister Jason Aris said.

The investigation found duplicates of genuine payments were set up to go to Fosbrook’s bank account, but she claimed to be innocent.

Fosbrook, of Morgan Orchard in Kington, only changed her pleas to guilty less than two weeks before her trial.

Judge Nicholas Cartwright said her insistence it was someone else transferring money in “an act of charity” was “particularly unattractive”, adding what the “manipulative” accountant did was a “gross breach of trust”.

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Mr Aris said the firm’s victim impact statement showed staff felt “soiled and betrayed”, and because the theft amounted to five per cent of projected net income, it “denied staff a performance-related pay rise”.

Defence barrister Emily Heggadon said Fosbrook likely suffered from depression, anxiety and epilepsy, and was struggling with outstanding debt.

She said Fosbrook’s limited income meant she could only afford to pay £50 compensation a month.

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Miss Heggadon could not tell the judge where the money had gone, only that it was “not there” anymore.

The judge dismissed that as unacceptable and said a proceeds of crime application would be heard in August.

For the 12 counts of thefts, he sentenced Fosbrook to 17 months in prison, suspended for two years. She must also complete 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days, 140 hours unpaid work and a surcharge.

Hereford Times