An accountant who stole £350,000 from her employers to feed her gambling addiction walked free after a judge said she was “not the general stuff of which the prison population is made”.
Natalie Saul, 37, pilfered the money from technology firm Idio’s accounts over a year and blew more than £250,000 playing online poker, Standard Uk reports
The mother-of-one submitted more than 400 fake invoices to get the cash from the software company, based in Fitzrovia, central London, between March 2015 and December 2016.
But Saul was given a two-year suspended sentence and 250 hours unpaid work by Judge Catherine Newman, QC, who admitted her sentence was “wholly exceptional” and fell outside sentencing guidelines.
The judge told Southwark Crown Court yesterday: “I’m taking a considerable risk that the Crown will think it lenient and appeal, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.”
Lucie Daniels, defending Saul, had argued she was “shaken” by the loss of her grandmother in 2013 and was a committed charity worker.
“This offending is so out of character, she has worked hard and paid her taxes and been a responsible citizen,” said Ms Daniels.
The court heard Saul used her role as office manager to create fake invoices to pay cash into her own bank account before switching the details to avoid detection.
She was only caught when she went on maternity leave in December 2016 and a new chief financial office took over and spotted hundreds of fake invoices.
It was only after she was challenged by the company that she confessed her crimes, and pleaded guilty to one count of fraud.
Judge Newman said she was on the brink of giving her a sentence of three years and four months, before being persuaded she was unfit for prison.
Ms Newman said: “It has caused considerable harm to your employer which could ill afford to lose such a substantial sum, but thankfully survived. Your grandmother’s death rocked the stability of your hitherto good citizenship.
“You had a steady partner who had no idea of your gambling addiction and stands by you. I’m prepared to take the wholly exceptional course of reducing your sentence and suspend it.”
Saul burst into tears as Judge Newman told her the sentence was suspended. Saul, of Tregarvon Road, Wandsworth, was given a two-year suspended sentence and 250 hours community order for one count of fraud by abuse of position.
She was ordered to pay just £360 costs, a little over £10 for every £1000 she stole from her company