Friday, 24 November 2017

Selfridges Beauty Salon Wrecked By Crooked Book Keeper During £116K Fraud

Dishonest: Gittens
A “devious and calculating” bookkeeper, who wrecked the Selfridges business of a beauty entrepreneur during a £116,000 fraud, has been jailed.

Thelma Gittens, 54, forged invoices and accounts and even tried to buy the failing company in a cut-price deal from creditors with the money she swindled. 

As luxury beauty salon Groom London Ltd. - which charged customers up to £175 an hour - floundered she financed a “lavish” party in her native Manila, which was posted on youtube.

Gittens, of Montgomery House, Harrow Road, Paddington received three years and eight months imprisonment at Blackfriars Crown Court.

She pleaded guilty to one count of fraud by abuse of position between January 1, 2013 and February 28, this year.

Her former boss, Susan Baddeley, 47, broke down in tears as she told the court how Gittens’ dishonesty was responsible for the collapse of her business and 15 employees losing their jobs.

“My trust was shattered by Thelma Gittens’s awful betrayal,” she said, describing the demise of the company she ran for fourteen years as “incredibly painful” and “horrific.”

"Trust Was Shattered": Baddeley
She hired Gittens as a self-employed bookkeeper in 2008. “I trusted her just like everyone else in my team.”

The company relied on a bank overdraft to survive and Ms Baddeley was forced to borrow £10,000 from her parents to keep Groom afloat.

Gittens knew about the family loan, but still took money from the company’s account the following day.

It was revealed during liquidation proceedings Gittens had transferred £60,715 into her account, plus another £55,757 to her brother’s account.

“I could not understand why the business got into such a bad financial state,” added Ms Baddeley. “I was shocked and numbed by the discovery Thelma Gittens was double invoicing her pay and paying someone else.

“She had been falsifying invoices and accounts and took advantage even though she knew the company was struggling financially.

“It was calculated and self-motivated and showed a complete disregard for me and the staff. 

“She even tried to buy the company for a nominal fee to cover-up what she had done in a hard-hearted and cynical way.”

Gittens, who claims she took the money to pay her mother’s medical bills in the Philippines, desperately tried to cover her tracks.

“She deleted files on two separate occasions and a total of twenty-five thousand payroll files were deleted,” said prosecutor Mr. Obi Mgbokwere.

“Once she realised the net was really closing in she said she was sorry and sent a letter to Ms Baddeley, but this was just a cut-and-paste letter she found on google.”

Ms Baddeley described the cut-and-paste ‘apology’ letter in which Gittens expressed her Christian values as “abhorrent.”

Judge Rajeev Shetty told Gittens, who remained in the court’s cells: “You deleted voluminous quantities of bank account statements to cover up your actions even though the game was up.

“Fifteen employees lost their jobs because this company folded. Their lives have been effected by your fraud.

“You also knew Ms Baddeley was going through a separation and divorce, yet you chose to defraud her.

“The real human tragedy is seeing the company fold and employees lose their jobs. Ms Baddeley described them as like family.

“A youtube video reveals you spent money on a lavish hotel party in Manila. You were there spending a fairly significant amount on this celebration.

“That video provides a snapshot of your lifestyle and was sent anonymously to the court.

“There is a fairly devious and calculating methodology. You were stealing this money and then trying to use it to buy and run the company, deposing the owners.

“You have inflicted far more collective pain on the owners of the company and their employees.”

The judge rejected much of Gittens’s claim the money was spent on medical bills. “Trying to help someone by ruthlessly destroying the lives of others can’t be good mitigation.” 

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