Kathleen Weir took money from her employers over a seven-year period and blew it on horse racing and football bets
An accountant who used an elaborate scheme to steal £400,000 from her bosses to fund a £1.2 million gambling addiction has been jailed for five years.
Kathleen Weir, of Southampton, Hampshire, took money from her employers over a seven-year period and blew it on horse racing and football bets.
The court heard the 40-year-old, who also goes by the name of Kathleen Griffin, made 8,000 bets over a two-year period through Ladbrokes, Skybet, William Hill and bet365.com.
She started taking money just months after she began working for Elliotts builders’ merchants in Southampton, as a deputy head management accountant in 2009.
Her responsibilities included keeping accurate accounts and making payments to HMRC.
Southampton Crown Court heard she made transactions from the firm and used nine different bank accounts in her two surnames to stash the stolen cash.
Weir buried the transactions worth hundreds of thousands of pounds so that her bosses wouldn’t see them.
But investigators said she spent all of the money on gambling and put her winnings back into her betting in order to help fund the £1.2 million she spent over the seven year period.
Kathleen Weir, arrives at Southampton Crown Court with a male companion, where she was jailed for five years
It wasn’t until 2016 that bosses at the building firm noticed irregularities and launched an internal investigation into the missing funds – after she made 43 money transfers and cashed 72 cheques.
But Weir refused to comment on the investigation, instead blaming others for the errors.
Her sentence comes after a Daily Mail investigation revealed in August how gambling firms used so-called VIP schemes to keep the highest-spending punters hooked on their websites, offering free holidays and sports tickets worth tens of thousands of pounds.
Yesterday in a separate case, Andrew Girling was jailed for four years for plundering more than £1million to feed his online gambling addiction.
He spent his employers cash on web slots and roulette, racking up £50,000 a day.
The father of two was so popular with online bookies that he was rewarded with free VIP trips to encourage his custom.
He drank champagne in five-star hotels and entertained pals with freebie tickets for races including Royal Ascot, the Derby and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
It took police two years to prove that Weir had hidden transactions worth £209,414.38, and cashed cheques worth £196,635 – paying them into her own accounts.
Weir started taking money just months after she began working for Elliotts builders’ merchants in Southampton, as a deputy head management accountant in 2009.
Weir hid her employment history – as well as the court case – from bosses at her new job at Key Yachting in Southampton who lent her cash she said she needed to pay off debts.
She pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud and was jailed for five years.
Weir originally denied the charges before backtracking and admitting the offences on December 4.
The court heard that Weir tried to take her take her life after being arrested, and she was sacked from her job at Key Yachting in November.
Mitigating, Sarah Jones said Weir would benefit from treatment and revealed her mother is vulnerable.
Pictured: Tom Elliott, MD of Elliotts builders’ merchants and Lauren Haines, director of Elliotts outside Southampton Crown Court. Mr Elliott said: ‘I feel sorry for her family’
But she also said it was hard to explain how Weir got herself into the gambling situation.
Sentencing, Judge Parker QC said: ‘Within five months of the start of your employment you began to steal from the company, pilfering and ransacking the company.
Half of online profits ‘from vulnerable punters’
More than half of online profits by betting firms come from at-risk and problem gamblers, a study shows.
Vulnerable punters bet more than £2.3billion on gambling sites last year in an industry ‘addicted to addiction’.
The report, by the think-tank ResPublica, warned internet betting remained a ‘Wild West’ that acted like an ‘enormous unregulated cybercasino’.
It called on the Government to do more to tackle Britain’s online gambling epidemic, claiming the regulations were failing and needed overhauling. It said 58 per cent of online gambling industry profits came from low or moderate-risk gamblers or problem gamblers.
Gambling operators earned £4.7billion from online betting from April 2016 to March 2017.
Ministers announced plans this year to cut the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2 after a Daily Mail campaign.
Phillip Blond, director of ResPublica and one of the study’s authors, said: ‘Similar Government action should be taken in the online world as has been taken in the bricks and mortar world.’
A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said: ‘As well as reducing the maximum FOBT stake to £2, we have set out a package of measures in our Gambling Review to increase protections around online gambling.’
ResPublica’s report backed reforms that would allow consumers join up to bring legal cases against firms that broke the rules.
‘You spent something like one and a quarter million pounds on online betting.’
He added that it was ‘hard to ignore the fact’ that she placed the blame on others.
Police investigator Stephen Webber, said: ‘Kathleen Weir was employed by them for seven years but she exploited the company’s trust in her by systematically draining company funds to feed her gambling habit.
‘The amounts involved were staggering and this was happening over a very long period of time.
‘Both these factors demonstrate the severity of Weir’s gambling addiction.
‘The fact that she has nothing to show for it at the end of the day tells its own story.
‘But it wasn’t her money she was gambling with.
‘Her actions were to the detriment of the company which placed its trust in her and to everyone who worked with her.
‘She has abused that trust appallingly and the sentence today reflects that..’
Bosses at Elliotts have said they are still shocked after they were slammed with a £10,000 HMRC fine on top of the the £400,000 lost due to Weir’s activities.
Most of the losses were covered by insurance but the company was forced to pay the £10,000 fine for unpaid tax and suffered ‘reputational damage’
Managing director Tom Elliott said: ‘I feel sorry for her family.
‘We have lost a huge amount of money and we won’t ever get it back.’
Weir’s most recent boss Paul Heys – owner of Key Yachting, said he was ‘surprised and shocked’ by the news.
He added: ‘We know that Kath had been suffering from stress and we have given her time off to deal with it.
‘When she joined us she said she had not had a recent career as she had been taking care of her ill father.
‘We cannot imagine how difficult it must be to be trapped by such an addiction.
‘We hope that Kath has the mental strength to deal with her sentence.’