A PPI claim company admin manager illegally pocketed more than £90,000 of compensation and used it to fund a breast enhancement, a car and shopping sprees, a court has heard.
The actions of Louise Hitchen, 27, had wider implications for her company and colleagues, some of whom lost their jobs because of the cost to the firm.
At Liverpool Crown Court today, she was sentenced to 12 months in prison after admitting two counts of fraud by abuse of position of trust.
Hitchen, of School Street, Newton-Le-Willows, was employed by Hardwick Financial Solutions LTD - a company that deal with Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) claims and settlements to clients - in 2011 as an admin manager.
The company is based in Goose Green, Wigan.
Following poor performance, Hitchen left the office on October 19, 2012, and did not return for her next shift. She later resigned.
In December 2012, Hitchen's former line manager was contacted by a customer who was querying where her compensation was.
An investigation was launched and it was established that the client's money had been paid into Hitchen's account, rather than the account of Hardwick Financial Solutions LTD.
Some funds were returned by Hitchen, including a Vauxhall Astra convertible that she had bought.
The firm also discovered electronic and paper records of transactions had been deleted so they had no way of establishing whether any other funds had been stolen.
A further client then contacted the firm in March 2013, who was claimed to be owed cash.
Police were called and an investigation was launched.
Hitchen's bank accounts were checked and 15 transfers were identified that had come from two companies who settle claims with Hardwick Financial Solutions LTD.
The total payments into Louise Hitchen's bank account was £93,250.56, £23,849.98 of which has been repaid by her.
The money was used to pay for a breast enhancement, a car and numerous transactions were made at food and retail outlets.
Detective Constable Mark Edwards, from Greater Manchester Police’s Volume Fraud Team, said: “In the space of about four months Louise Hitchen stole close to £100,000.
“With the exception of the cosmetic surgery and car - which has since been returned - Hitchen frittered away much of the cash on shopping sprees and trips out.
“The cost to Hardwick Financial Solutions LTD has been significant and has included staff losing their jobs but the only person Louise thought about while she had her 'hand in the till' was herself."