Asda worker jailed for huge theft
A supermarket worker who was jailed for stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds of Asda gift vouchers "amassed a fortune" which she spent on luxury holidays, artwork and lavish ornaments, police have said.
Jennifer Margaret Ward, 49, of Wigginton Road, York and her partner Alistair Gordon Lobban, 52, of the same address, were sent to prison for a total of three years following what North Yorkshire Police described as a "bizarre" and "complex investigation into theft and money laundering".
Ward, who got a two-year jail term at Leeds Crown Court, admitted stealing at least £400,000 from her employers, Asda on Jockey Lane, York, and having in her possession over £200,000 worth of Asda gift vouchers for use in fraud, the force said.
She worked in the cash office at the retail chain and was responsible for reconciling accounts and destroying used vouchers. But she abused her position of trust to steal cash and vouchers and falsified the accounts which she returned to Asda's head office in the course of her work, North Yorkshire Police said.
The force added: "Ward spread the proceeds of her crimes across numerous bank accounts and spent thousands of pounds on holidays and entertainment. The pair were frequent visitors to the Star Castle Hotel in the Isles of Scilly.
"When officers searched her York home they discovered more than £200,000 worth of Asda gift vouchers and a hoard of electrical goods, ornaments, paintings and toiletries. Between 2004 and 2010, the pair's joint spending was colossal, indulging in a lavish lifestyle way beyond their means."
Ward pleaded guilty to charges of theft and possessing or having control of an article for use in fraud on 13 January 2012 at York Crown Court, the force said. Lobban was found guilty of money laundering by a jury at Leeds Crown Court on May 2 this year. He was jailed for 12 months.
Detective Inspector Ian Wills, head of North Yorkshire Police's Financial Investigation Unit, said: "On the face of it Ward appeared to be a hard working woman holding down her job at Asda and at several local pubs. However, the search of her property following her arrest, gave a clear indication that both her and Lobban were living well in excess of their declared income and were amassing a fortune.
"It took two police search teams three days, working sixteen hours each day, to log and recover the vast quantity of goods that had been bought with some of the proceeds of the crime. Ward's greed clearly got the better of her and led her to abuse the trust placed in her by her employers."
A confiscation timetable, to establish the benefit the pair received from this crime, and to confiscate their ill-gotten gains will take place in the near future, police added.