Leighton Buzzard woman stole over £11,500 from estate agents

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A young woman from Leighton Buzzard who stole over £11,500 from her bosses was given a suspended sentence as an “act of mercy” after a court heard she had become mired in debt.

Amy Bygrave, 28, appeared at Luton Crown Court today for sentencing after pleading guilty to stealing £11,573.43 from Connells lettings and estate agents over a period of time from August last year up until February.

The court was told that administrator Bygrave, of Plumtree Lane, transferred unclaimed rental deposits into her own and a friend’s bank accounts, when they should have been put into the company account.

Bygrave attempted to cover up her crime by creating a fake audit trail in the company’s computer system.

Judge Michael Kay QC said: “It wasn’t the most sophisticated fraud ever but you created an audit trail so that on the face of it, the funds were going back to the tenants.”

The offences only came to light when a tenant complained asking for their deposit. After an internal investigation, Bygrave was found to have carried out around 20 such transactions and she was later sacked.

Bygrave’s defence told the court that she had worked several years as an apprentice, and had gradually accrued a large amount of debt to various loan companies and retailers over the years, totalling over £11,000.

The court was told she had repaid over £1,150 to Connells and had started a new job this week, working with an agency to help tackle her debt.

Judge Michael Kay QC said: “The money has been used to meet accumulated debt. You had been living well beyond your means for a period of time.

“That’s not any mitigation... If you get into debt that doesn’t mean you can steal from your employer. You are without doubt remorseful now, at the time you thought you could get away with it.

“You have so far paid back £1,150 [to Connells]. There is thought to be some hope that with the new job you might pay back some of that debt.”

Although Bygrave’s theft crossed the custody threshold, Judge Kay stated it was an “act of mercy” that he passed a 12 month sentence suspended for two years, alongside 150 hours’ unpaid work and a curfew for four months.