Maisie Passey, 27, squandered the cash on a “secret” abuse of drink and drugs, socialising and furniture – blaming her previous “toxic” relationship and an “unscrupulous” loan shark for spiralling into financial ruin. Passey, who is now heavily pregnant, made hundreds of fraudulent payments to herself in three years whilst working at infrastructure firm Auctus Management as a payroll coordinator.
The racket had a massive impact on the firm, based in Aston, Birmingham, reducing their underlying profit and resulting in a loss of bonuses, whilst having a knock-on effect on 101 workers’ tax status.
Passey was said to be “shocked” at being told how much she had swindled and pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud by abuse of position.
But she was jailed for 30 months on Friday after a judge decided she “exploited [her] position” in a “relatively sophisticated”.
Sentencing Passey, judge Avik Mukherjee said: “I’ve come to the view this offending is so serious I am justified in imposing an immediate term of imprisonment as I exercise my public duty.
“It is both appropriate and proportionate. I have come to the conclusion I can’t justifiably impost a non-custodial sentence in this case.
“I have no doubt you exploited your position and the fact that the company changed its system and the fact they trusted you. It was planned and relatively sophisticated; you altered bank records and time sheets and covered your deception with false documents.
“It was fairly creative and highly deceptive and successful and easy for you physically to do. Once you had enforced the plan and then realised you had not been discovered, no-one would think you were capable of any such deceit. This was undoubtedly a gross breach of trust.”
“You used that money, not your money, to fund your home including the buying of furniture, you socialised with this money, treated yourself, bought drink and drugs. It wasn’t just confined to paying your debts. It was significantly in excess of any debts you may have had.”
After sentencing, Passey mouthed “sorry” to friends and family in the public gallery, reports Birmingham Live.
The court had heard the defendant, from Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, made a staggering 501 fraudulent payments to herself between May 4, 2018 and August 22 last year.
Andrew Davidson, prosecuting, said: “She was effectively using her position to change bank details of employees to her own, then fabricate and submit time sheets for those employees to cause wages to be paid into her account.”
But the lucrative scam unravelled in September when a finance manager noticed employees’ bank details had been entered incorrectly, prompting an investigation which led to Passey.
Mr Davidson continued: “In her police interview she admitted her guilt.
“When asked why she committed it, she said it started when she was in a bad relationship. It wasn’t abusive, but it was a bad one. She became pregnant and had a termination during that period. She began to spend the money on drugs and as a means to make herself feel better.
“She got into debt with her bank for around £15,000 and also a private loan for £50,000. She was unable to pay the amount and continued to need money for the lifestyle and drugs she had turned to.”
Benjamin Williams, defending, stated Passey, who is eight months pregnant, would likely be induced sooner than her March 21 due date. He said it was “unrealistic” she would receive the same level of medical care in prison while there was no guarantee of a place in a mother and baby unit.
The lawyer said: “If she was able to choose she would rather have her baby whilst at home then leave her baby in the early months of her life to go to prison, than go into prison still pregnant and have her child in that environment, and be potentially separated at that stage.”
During a lengthy mitigation speech, Mr Williams also told the court Passey stopped taking money when she became pregnant again and “woke up to her very negative lifestyle”, which included abusing drink and drugs in “secret” from her new boyfriend.
The barrister confirmed friends and family had since helped her repay around £30,000. He added: “The defendant was shocked to be told how much she had taken in total. The background is, she was in a toxic relationship from her teens. She built up credit cards and bank debt and then became introduced to a loan shark.
“It was a fellow member of the community, a friend of a friend of a friend providing money entirely unregulated, undocumented and in rather unscrupulous fashion. Over time interest accrued in a way that was difficult to track or predict or second-guess. She found herself in a cycle of debt and struggling to pay the individual.”
Passey pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position.