Four years' jail after £400k 'fraud of greed'
A FORMER secretary who masqueraded as a millionairess while conning her employers out of more than £400,000 has been jailed for four years.
Helen Maria Hart, 46, used stolen cheques to pay for a private jet to whisk her off to Paris, buy luxury cars, Premiership football tickets and even pay her rent and water bills.
On Friday at Truro Crown Court, Hart sat showing no emotion as her seven-year spending spree finally came to an end.
Judge John Neligan called her actions "a blatant and brazen breach of trust".
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He said: "Your lifestyle was, if I may say so, a lavish one at the expense of your employer who trusted you and [whom] you so dishonestly abused."
Hart had pleaded guilty to 25 counts of fraud, theft and deception between October 2005 and May 2012.
Her deception started soon after she began working as a typist for PDP Green Consultants Ltd, an architectural firm in Truro.
Hart, of Illogan, near Camborne, was promoted to company secretary, gaining control of its chequebook and forging her boss's signature in order to bleed the company dry.
At the time the firm was owned by Philip Desmonde.
Her activities were uncovered when the company received a winding-up order for £271,000 in unpaid taxes fromHer Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in May 2011.
Before sentence was passed Jo Martin, for the prosecution, said Hart had bragged about inheriting a large amount of money, including from a relative who was shot dead.
She regularly travelled to London to undergo cosmetic treatment, following dramatic weight loss and an image change, staying at the exclusive Dorchester Hotel and going to the theatre.
Later, she took a 21-year-old man she met at her former gym, Morgan's in Chacewater, to a game at Chelsea FC, paying £5,000 for a hospitality box for the afternoon.
Hart also ordered a renovations company to carry out £1.5 million worth of work to a £3 million home she said she was about to buy at Mylor.
The sale did not go through, although the local firm had already carried out at least £30,000 worth of work.
Miss Martin said Hart spent £65,000 in five years on cars, including a Mercedes CLS, a Lexus, BMW, Range Rover and Porsche. She also ran up a £25,000 bill at Harrods, spent £16,000 at the Dorchester and £22,000 at Marks & Spencer.
The court was told her colleagues never suspected the firm was bankrolling her extravagant spending.
Miss Martin said: "This was not a fraud of necessity; it was fraud of greed.
"She put the company to the edge of insolvency."
Piers Norsworthy, for the defence, said Hart was in a position of responsibility and expertise that belied her scant talents in accounting. She had initially taken just a small amount of money.