Woman stole £50,000 from best friend's Wakefield company after being given a job

A woman who callously stole over £50,000 from her best friend's company in Wakefield and almost drove it into the ground, has been jailed.

Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 8:03 am
Paper and Pens Ltd is based on St John's North in Wakefield.

Bernadette Chin-Fong betrayed the trust of her friend of 30 years after she gave her a job at the stationery company, Paper And Pens Ltd, and then began quietly siphoning large amounts of cash to her own account over a 17-month period, Leeds Crown Court was told.

Chin-Fong, 51, admitted stealing £50,258 during a sentencing hearing on Tuesday morning.

Prosecuting, Heather Gilmore said that the defendant was considered as 'part of the family' by her friend, who was even godmother to Chin-Fong's daughter.

Sign up to our daily Wakefield Express Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A job was created for Chin-Fong at the stationery supplies company on St John's North in 2014, and when she was trusted with organising the firm's wages system, she began to transfer cash to her own account with her first payment made in September 2017.

Discrepancies were found in the system in February 2019, and a closer look found that Chin-Fong had been using companies that dealt with Paper And Pens Ltd as a cover to pay money to herself.

It was found that she had made transfers ranging from £220 to £3,135 up to four times a month.

She was eventually arrested in November 2019 but made no comment during interview.

A victim impact statement from the victim was read out in court outlining the financial mess her company had been left.

While the money was being slowly siphoned, the company owner said she was left struggling to pay invoices, received warnings about tax payments and even considered selling her home to help balance the books. Despite this, the company is still operating.

The statement read: "It's the worst experience of my life to be betrayed and devastated that Bernadette, of all people, could have done this to me after I had been so kind to her and been a friend for 30 years.

"She continues to badmouth me to make herself look innocent."

The victim had even looked after Chin-Fong's dying mother while she flew to America and continued to regularly steal the cash.

After finally confronting her, Chin-Fong told her devastated friend that she had been entitled to the money that she had taken, the court was told.

Mitigating, Michael Walsh said: "She is making absolutely no excuse for her actions.

"For what it's worth, she apologises, although it may seem a little hollow."

The court was told that Chin-Fong, of Claxton Street, Barnsley, had initially racked up credit card bills and had over £3,000 to repay, which led her to transferring cash.

She has previous convictions from the 1980s for theft and forgery.

Judge Christopher Batty jailed her for 18 months and said: "You knew full well how much money was in that company.

"It's had a huge impact on the business and caused untold stress on your friend and employer who helped you out.

"It's difficult to imagine a greater breach of trust."