A woman who swindled a local council out of tens of thousands of pounds has been jailed.
Stephanie Standen, 30 of Benhurst Gardens, South Croydon stole more than £100,000 while employed by Croydon Council.
Standen was jailed for four years at Croydon Crown Court on Wednesday, 26 February.
As part of her duties, Standen had access rights which allowed her to make amendments to an electronic system which made payments to those providing services within foster care for the most vulnerable children in the borough.
Between 6 September 2016 and 26 September 2017, Standen created false records of fictitious foster service providers, who would, if they truly existed, have been entitled to payments from the council for services they performed.
Standen attached legitimate bank account details, in her name and the names of a number of her associates to these false service provider records allowing payments to be released to personal accounts. As a result she was able to divert £128,067.63 of the council’s fostering budget into these bank accounts.
From this process Standen personally received £64,628.39, which was paid directly into bank accounts belonging to her. These funds were all spent prior to her arrest in April 2018.
Standen was arrested in April 2018 for fraud by abuse of position after a Corporate Fraud Investigator for Croydon Council identified a number of anomalies in the electronic accounting system. A number of payments were identified where edits had been made to the records – these edits were made by a user number attributed to Standen.
Standen denied involvement in the offence until the days leading to her trial before she pleaded guilty.
Her associates were identified and arrested between April and June 2018. They were convicted of money laundering offences and sentenced as follows at the same hearing as Standen.
– George Sharpless, 25 received £11,000 from Standen; he was given an 18-month suspended sentence;
– Simeon Brown, 39 received £9,528.83 from Standen; he was given 120 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £2,000 compensation;
– Hollie West, 31 received £11,884.14 from Standen; she was given an 18-month suspended sentence;
– Sonny Veerasawmy, 31 received £16,150 from Standen; he was given an 18-month suspended sentence and ordered to pay £6,000 compensation;
– Steven Little – 33 received £4,150 from Standen; he was given 100 hours unpaid work and order to pay £4,150 compensation.
Detective Constable Simon Allen, who led the investigation, said:
“The loss of more than £128,000 to Croydon Council had a significant impact on services for children who required care from the fostering budget. The loss meant that children who needed services were not able to be provided with them as there were insufficient funds in the budget following the fraud.
“Standen was in a position of trust and nobody could have predicted how she would have abused this. She had no previous convictions and blamed her behaviour on an extensive drug habit.
“I would like to thank Croydon Council who provided assistance and support throughout the investigation.”