A dental practice manager plundered the accounts to give herself a quarter of a million pound pay rise.
Lisa Marie Jones, 55, splashed out on luxury handbags and shoes, as she lived well beyond the means of her 16 hour a week job. When she was caught, Jones, of Scarisbrick, blamed colleagues, claiming they had drugs, debts and family issues.
She then claimed the owner had given her the money as they were having a secret love affair. Jones paid herself up to £8,000 a month - more than six times her actual wage of £1, 200 a month, Preston Crown Court heard.
Cecilia Pritchard, prosecuting, told the court Jones was employed as a practice manager at Mansion House Dental Practice in Ormskirk from the 1980s to 2016. She had full responsibility for the payroll and finances of the business, in addition to admin and reception duties.
In 2000, dentist John Howarth took over the business after working as a dentist at the practice for two years. Jones continued her role as practice manager with an agreement any overtime would be paid by time off in lieu.
Mr Howarth said he trusted Jones implicitly - however, unknown to him, Jones doctored cheques to add additional numbers after they had been signed, and made out cheques to her own account or for cash. Mr Howarth took on extra work to try to keep the business afloat, working up to 52 extra hours a month. In 2014 he had a breakdown at home and told his wife "enough was enough".
Mr Howarth sold the business to Chris Fair, another dentist who worked at the practice. Mr Fair said he wanted to phase out cheques and move to digital banking, however Jones began altering payroll records, increasing her hourly rate of pay and the number of hours she worked, so continue to defraud the practice.
"Over a long period of years the defendant defrauded the practice, covering the time when it was owned by both Mr Howarth and Mr Fair" Ms Pritchard said.
In 2016, Mr Fair noticed money was missing from the company accounts and called in the help of a financial investigator. A forensic accountant concluded she had taken £282, 958 she was not entitled to. They concluded the shortfall was down to Jones, and she was dismissed for gross misconduct, the court heard.
Jones appealed against her dismissal, blaming colleagues and making false claims about Mr Howarth - saying he did not want to confess to an affair because he had chosen his wife over her. But in 2023, she pleaded guilty to fraud and false accounting.
Mr Howarth said: "Lisa robbed me and her colleagues of pay rises on many occasions. She robbed me of a large part of my pension when I sold the practice. Her actions have inevitably affected my stability and trust in people, and I have lost opportunities I could have had with my children and family."
He said he was traumatised by Jones' lies about him, which he had to discuss with his wife.
"I was heartbroken", he said. "I felt I didn't know Lisa at all. Not only had she stolen from me, she told lies that affected my family. She has no remorse and I could not believe she would stoop so low."
Mr Fair said: "Realising there had been a theft from the practice was a huge shock to me. Our staff were all long standing and I developed friendships with them. I thought I knew them all and could trust them all. Realising who was responsible highlighted the breach of trust and the charade of professionalism and friendship."
He said he found face to face meetings and phone calls with his former employee particularly difficult as Jones lied and used her emotions in an unpleasant way. As a result of the investigation, tensions arose with other members of staff and Mr Fare was left feeling paranoid and fearful.
"I realised I had been underpaying John (Howarth) for two years. This resulted in me owing John £40,000 which I had to take out a loan to pay."
He said his mental health suffered and he resorted to using sleeping pills. Defending, Peter Gimour said Jones had continued to work for another business following her dismissal and was well thought of and trusted.
Judge Graham KNowles KC, sentencing, said: "For seven years you defrauded two dentists who employed and trusted you. You defrauded them of more than a quarter of a million pounds. For seven more years you denied what you had done and blamed others for what you had done until eventually you changed your plea to guilty. You abused your role and abused their trust.
"That continued until Mr Fair smelled a rat and called in investigators at a cost. You falsely blamed colleagues, citing what you said about drug habits or debts or family issues. That led to unpleasant protracted investigations against wholly innocent people.
When police found the true depth of your criminality and plundering of the business, you kept up your denials."
The judge said Jones, of Heatons Bridge Road, Scarisbrick, showed no remorse and aggravated the offences through her lies about others. He jailed her for six years and nine months for fraud with 32 months to run concurrently for false accounting.
Content retrieved from https://www.lancs.live/news/lancashire-news/dentist-manager-cooked-books-give-28255198
Have questions about your practice? Call us at 888-398-2327 or click HERE.