Ashfield woman jailed for fleecing tens of thousands of pounds out of customers and loans company
An Ashfield woman has been jailed after she fleeced tens of thousands of pounds from her employer and customers.
Melanie Woodhead carried out the frauds while working as an agent for small loans company Loans at Home.
Nottingham Crown Court was told on Friday that the 54-year-old had amassed around £37,000 from the scam over a six-month period during 2017-18, which saw her target a total of 26 customers.
Woodhead had agreed loans of a certain figure with customers and then add additional money on top, the court was told.
She had tried to pay off the parts of the loans which were meant for herself, but the dept had spiralled and her employers had cottoned on.
Woodhead, 54, of Brown Crescent, Sutton, had also taken out independent loans in her customer’s names without them knowing, sometimes using false addresses.
One victim described how she had been notified by the company that she had defaulted on a loan of £1,125, which she disputed.
Further investigation revealed that Woodhead had actually agreed a loan of £750 for the woman, and had added £375 on top for herself.
The court was told that the woman, who had known Woodhead for around 10 years in a business capacity, was also asked if she would help her to ‘cover it up’.
Clients were never shown paperwork and were oblivious to the scam until company bosses came knocking, the court was told.
The swindle first came to light after Woodhead’s area manager noticed a significant increase in customers going into arrears on loans in the area – and further investigations by the company revealed 24 of the 27 identified were her clients, said Fergus Malone, prosecuting.
The company told the court that Woodhead’s actions had impacted on its reputation and it had ultimately lost a number of customers as a result.
Woodhead, who is of previous good character, admitted fraud by abuse of trust from an employee when she appeared before Nottingham Magistrates’ Court in February.
Mitigating, David Watts, said: “It’s unfortunate that the company’s procedures allowed this to go on for such a long time. I don’t want to blame the company but a lot of trust was placed in someone without a lot of support.”
He said that the first time Woodhead had taken money was by accident while she was getting used to a new computer system, and she ended up with the cash by mistake, but received no repercussions.
“At the time of the offences she was emotional and in a very low place, “Mr Watts added. “Her relationship had broken up and she was in considerable debt.
“She was not able to live in her own home because she had rented it out and it had not been left in a good state.
“She was having to sofa surf and she was not used to living like that. The bailiffs were pursuing her for money and she had given in to temptation.”
Sentencing Woodhead to 16 months in prison, Recorder Graham Huston told her: “Each of these customers were already being pressed financially and forced to take out these small loans. They’re under a great deal of stress financially, and their stress must have been increased by being told they owed more money than they did.”