Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Model's ex-PA spared jail for fraud

Model Erin O'Connor's personal assistant has been spared a jail sentence after defrauding her

Model Erin O'Connor's personal assistant has been spared a jail sentence after admitting taking thousands of pounds from her boss to fund her own lavish lifestyle.

Michelle Knox-Brown, 46, abused her position to pay for holidays to Morocco, India, Spain and America using the Marks & Spencer model's credit card.

Kingston Crown Court heard that the three-year fraud had left O'Connor "doubting herself" and "tampered with her outlook and ability to trust others".

Knox-Brown, of Glyn Road, Clapton, east London, showed no emotion as she was given a 40-week suspended prison sentence and ordered to do 200 hours' unpaid community work.

Judge Andrew Campbell said Knox-Brown, who was paid more than £45,000 a year for the three-and-a-half-day-a-week job, had "let Miss O'Connor down very badly".

She had pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud at an earlier hearing, which included stealing £10,251 and spending £1,607 on taxis.

The court heard that she was given access to the model's personal information and bank accounts.

In May 2007, soon after she was hired, she began to splash out on purchases for herself. Armed with the PIN to O'Connor's HSBC card, she set off on exotic holidays, withdrawing cash while she was abroad to finance the trips.

She was able to get away with the scam because bills were paid automatically by direct debit, and Knox-Brown herself passed the paperwork direct to O'Connor's accountants.

While the 33-year-old model was on catwalks across the globe, her employee went on a spending spree in London's West End, including John Lewis, Zara, Top Shop and Office. She withdrew £1,500 cash in a two-week period.

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