A dishonest secretary who stole £ 84,000 from the primary school where she worked left her colleagues angry, hurt and betrayed.
Michelle Pidcock abused her position of trust to systematically help herself with school funds for five years – causing a staff shortage that has affected children’s education.
The 47-year-old has created a series of fake bills to cover his tracks at Ashby Hill Top Elementary School in Ashby.
Leicester Crown Court She was told the secretary started embezzling money from her husband’s bank account, in increasingly large amounts, from 2014 with £ 1,162 before eventually stealing £ 37,000 in 2018.
The defendant reportedly needed money to pay off payday loans with high interest, but she also spent on a new bathroom and went on vacation.
Pidcock, from Highgate, Ashby, admitted fraud by abusing his position at school.
Joey Kwong, District Attorney, said: “The emotional and psychological impact on the staff has been enormous and they are trying to figure out how someone could do this at a school and justify stealing school children.”
He said Pidcock was the school secretary between January 2008 and June 2018. She was responsible for BACS payments on behalf of the school and for processing invoices.
She was also a clerk at Governors’ Meetings and was said to have been privy to the financial situation of the school, which became an academy in 2012.
Three days after the defendant quit her job last summer, Hill Top Adventure Center contacted the school about an unpaid bill.
When the accounts were examined, it became apparent that fraudulent payments were being made to an online account in the name of the defendant’s husband, instead of paying legitimate school bills.
Mr. Kwong said, “Many fraudulent transactions have taken place.
“The total amount taken was £ 84,282.
“Her house was searched. She had a new bathroom installed.
“There was a laptop with a blank template used to create various fake invoices.”
When questioned by police, she said she had full use of her husband’s bank account and had suffered from depression for years.
Mr. Kwong added, “It was an abuse of his position over a long period of time; it was a sophisticated offense.”
The impact on the school
Tracey Fenn, the school’s commercial director, in a statement read by the prosecutor, said the school’s rapidly declining budget was affecting enrollment and that they were unable to replace support staff at their departure.
If Pidcock hadn’t stolen the money, the school would have employed three learning support assistants to help students count and read and read and additional staff for lunch. The school would also have spent £ 10,000 would have been spent on resources.
Ms Fenn said: “As it is, we had a make and fix attitude.”
The school was reimbursed by its insurers but had to pay a £ 1,000 deductible and an additional £ 1,500 in accounting fees to unravel the fraud.
Since then, there has been an improvement in academic performance and children’s behavior in school.
Ms Fenn said: “The biggest emotional impact was on the management team, who all feel angry, hurt and betrayed by someone most of them considered a friend, not just a colleague. .
“She was someone they trusted, including a lot of time and commitment to training Ms. Pidcock to be the future corporate director of the school she aspired to be. “
Ms Fenn said: “The school has a good reputation in the community, but once it becomes known to the public, we don’t know what effect it will have.”
What the judge said
Judge Martin Hurst said: “The staff and students of Ashby Hill Top Elementary School trusted you to be their honest and loyal accountant, but you let yourself get involved in crime.
“You weren’t earning enough to fund your lifestyle, I’m not saying it was a lavish lifestyle.
“You started out by borrowing on payday loans; the interest you were paying was at an astounding level.
“You got into more debt and started stealing at school.
“You took £ 1,162 in the first year and it went up until the last year you were there to £ 37,000.
“It came to light shortly after you left your job.
“You created bogus invoices and embezzled all the money through your husband’s bank account – the prosecution is not blaming him.
“The important mitigation is that you have pleaded guilty and admitted it and it was definitely a relief to get rid of it.
“Your husband re-mortgaged the house he owned, where you both live, in order to raise enough money to pay it off.
“The money is in your lawyer ‘s checking account.”
The judge said the defendant’s husband would have to give up his job to care for his 15-year-old daughter if Pidcock was taken into custody.
He told Pidcock: “You have to remember that if you haven’t already read the victim’s personal statements, it has had a significant effect on the education of the children.
“The school has not been able to hire a number of instructional support staff and learning standards have declined during this time.
After passing sentence Judge Hurst said: ‘It was dishonesty and you should be ashamed of your offense and you should feel grateful to come out of this door instead of this (leading to the cells of the court). “
What has been said in mitigation?
Claire Fraser, attenuating, said: “She has a good character and has made a full confession.
“She had a number of payday loans.
“There was a new bathroom and as far as the holidays were concerned it was in the UK, not overseas or lavish.
“His strongest mitigation is his guilty plea. The money can be paid back.
“She is currently working; they are not yet aware of this procedure and whether she will stay in this job remains to be seen.”
In a previous hearing Ms Fraser said: “She knew she was going to be discovered and went to the police and surrendered.”
LeicestershireLive asked Pidcock, after her conviction, if she wanted to say anything about her offense or express remorse. She said, “I’m sorry.”
Pidcock was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, with 250 hours of unpaid work and a five-day rehab activity requirement.
The judge ordered him to pay compensation of £ 84,282 within 28 days.