Online Gambler Jailed For Fraud

Parish clerk embezzled GBP 56,000 from council bank account before being discovered

Joanne Sharp, a 28-year-old parish clerk and mother of three in the UK with a penchant for online gambling, was jailed for 12 months this week for plundering the bank account of the council for which she worked.

Prosecutors at the Peterborough Crown Court adduced evidence showing that Sharp helped herself to GBP 65,000 of council money, and had paid back only GBP 9,000.

The still missing GBP 56,000 is more than a year's income for the council, which has been forced to take out a loan to make up the shortfall.

Sharp admitted fraud, and will serve half the sentence, the Cambridge News reports.

The court was told that Sharp was employed by the parish council as a clerk in 2009 and was responsible for looking after finances and financial records.

On May 22 last year the council's bank contacted the parish chairperson to query a cheque allegedly signed by her. It was subsequently found that her signature had been forged on nine other cheques, and an investigation revealed that Sharp had also filed fraudulent bank statements to cover her tracks.

Sharp's legal representative pleaded for leniency for her client, explaining that she was genuinely remorseful and had spent the money on online gambling to escape the reality of a controlling husband and the family debt burden.

Sharp had developed an addiction for gambling, she said, urging the court to consider a suspended sentence.

Sharp has already paid a severe penalty for her wrongdoing; her marriage had broken up, her reputation was in tatters, she had three young children to raise and she was unemployed.

Recorder Angela Rafferty characterised the fraud as both outrageous and blatant, and told Sharp:

"This offence is so serious only an immediate custodial sentence can be justified."

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