A Co Tyrone company “almost perished” after losing nearly £2m to a fraudster who spent the cash on a life of luxury, its directors have said.
A statement from the firm said the loss had led to multiple job losses and pushed employees and their families into hardship.
Company representatives spoke out as a woman faces sentencing over the large-scale fraud at the Cookstown-based company.
The woman’s name or the company she worked for cannot be reported at this stage because of legal reasons.
This week, five years after she was first arrested, full details of the fraudster’s offending over an eight-year period — and the elaborate steps she took to try and avoid detection — were disclosed at Dungannon Crown Court.
Prosecution counsel Charles McCreanor QC said this involved 26 counts of fraud and money laundering totalling some £1.9m.
The court heard how the woman significantly breached the trust of her employer, where she was in charge of finances, defrauding the firm out of cash to the extent that it was on the verge of collapse.
After the case, a spokesperson for the company directors said: “This case began in 2016 but was withdrawn the following year, then reinstated in November 2018 and (on Thursday) the sentencing process began.
“Throughout the process, it has all been about the defendant with little regard to the victims of these atrocious offences.
“It should not be forgotten, but for the support of the parent company, (this company) almost perished at the hands of this person, causing multiple job losses and pushing our employees and their families into hardship.
"The defendant had no concern for their welfare and instead thought only of a self-indulgent lifestyle.”
A judge at Thursday’s hearing was told how the woman engaged in 500 to 600 individual criminal transactions, including unauthorised withdrawals, electronic transfers, fraudulent bank statements and forging of signatures.
Expenditure was used to sustain a luxury lifestyle for the defendant in her lavish house, set in its own grounds deep in the countryside.
The court heard details of where the cash had gone, including:
The court also heard details of the elaborate steps the defendant took to cover her tracks.
These included false bank statements, which were provided to the company board and accountants with fictitious figures.
She forged the name of a former company employee who had left after a serious road traffic accident.
The court also heard the woman had personal control of the financial records, destroying all documentation on realising she had been discovered.
After her arrest, she admitted the offences, claiming the funds were spent “just on holidays”, adding: “There’s nothing to show for it”.
At one stage, she approached one of the company directors and claimed she was suffering from a rare cancer, which was untrue.
Sentencing will take place at a later date.