Serial conwoman on six figure salary defrauded almost £2 MILLION from two companies she worked for
17:15, 25 APR 2016 UPDATED 18:06, 25 APR 2016
BY ANDY CARSWELL
An accountant conned two companies out of almost £2 million after she abused her position as finance director to embezzle cash .
Evelyn Gore-Strachan, 42, today began her 12-year sentence after she stole money from the two jobs, despite earning a six-figure sum.
She siphoned more than £800,000 out of the accounts of the first company, before jumping ship when she learned she was being made redundant and stealing a further £1 million from the second.
Incredibly she started defrauding the second company within weeks of starting work – in a bid to pay back the money she had stolen from the first firm.
And it emerged on Friday afternoon that Gore-Strachan had secured the trusted positions by failing to tell either firm that she had previously been jailed – having conned a dental company where she worked out of money a staggering 33 times.
Gore-Strachan managed to get a pay rise to £132,000-a-year from the second firm she worked for after convincing them she was doing a good job for them – when in reality they later had to make workers redundant because they had been left significantly out of pocket by her offending.
The Zimbabwean national, who owns a five bedroomed house, was sent back to prison and barred from being a company director for the next 15 years by a judge who described her actions as being “about as bad a case as there could be.”
Gore-Strachan used a total of 35 accounts to hide her ill-gotten gains, setting up bogus accounts for firms with similar-sounding names to those that she worked for in a bid to avoid detection.
Other accounts were created for completely fictitious companies, many of which had her as the sole director, a court heard.
On one occasion when suspicious colleagues phoned a number on an invoice to query it, Gore-Strachan answered the phone but disguised her voice.
Prosecutor Michael Roques told Reading crown court that between 2008 and 2012, the 42-year-old managed to steal a total of £809,776 from Webtech Wireless, a Vancouver-based software firm that had an office in Reading, Berks.
She earned an annual salary of £44,000 in this post, which included bookkeeping and filing the company’s tax and employee PAYE returns.
In spring 2012 the firm announced it was to close its Reading office and Gore-Strachan would be among the employees to be made redundant.
It wasn’t until the following year that the company discovered a number of problems with legitimate commission payments to another firm, Globetec, which had been authorised by Gore-Strachan.
“It became apparent the commission payments meant to be paid to Globetec had been paid into a UK Abbey National bank account,” Mr Roques told the court.
An investigation showed that the money was being paid into the account of Pro Clean Services UK Ltd, Mr Roques said.
It also emerged that a request to change bank account details was made using a bogus email address that was similar to those used by Globetec.
Mr Roques told the court: “It diverted payments to a Barclays account with the name Globetex Ltd. The defendant, it was established, was the director of Globetex, no doubt set up to mimic Globetec in order to further the fraud.”
Two full-scale investigations were launched and it emerged that Gore-Strachan had pocketed more than £800,000 from Webtech Wireless.
The company recovered the losses through its insurers and Gore-Strachan made an arrangement with the insurance firm that she would repay £300,000.
She made a lump sum payment of £260,000 – which, Mr Roques said, she had obtained by falsifying authorisation from a colleague at the second firm she ended up defrauding, Britannia Pharmaceuticals.
Whilst working there she twice transferred out more than £200,000 into bank accounts she set up with names similar to a Japanese firm linked to Britannia, the court was told.
In total she stole £1,000,614 from them – leading to the confidence in the company and its share price to fall, resulting in staff being laid off or having bonus payments withheld.
That was despite Gore-Strachan “using her charm” to negotiate an increased bonus from 15 per cent to 25 per cent, in line with other bosses at the firm, and a pay rise from £112,000 to £132,000, Mr Roques told the court.
A complex police investigation led to Gore-Strachan eventually being charged with nine counts of fraud.
Mr Roques added that Gore-Strachan had worked for a third firm, Par XL, in between her employment at Webtech Wireless and Britannia Pharmaceuticals.
She has admitted defrauding money out of them as well, but the company is not chasing a prosecution as they believe any money they recoup will be outweighed by the cost of the investigation, Mr Roques told the judge sitting at Reading Crown Court.
Mike Phillips, defending, said his client had been married for more than 20 years and had two daughters, the eldest of whom attended Imperial College.
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