Employee thief ‘utter disgrace’

Rita Swan
Rita Swan

A trusted employee of a family-run borough retail company who stole £154,000 from her unsuspecting bosses has been jailed for three years, nine months.

Not only did Rita Swan’s employers, Ena Mill Retail, which is based in an historic former cotton mill in Atherton, not realise she was systematically stealing from them but they were unaware she also has two convictions for stealing from previous employers.

Jailing the 64-year-old, a judge pointed out that she had been lining her own pockets while the two company directors went without salaries for the first six months of the business starting up and worked tirelessly to make it a success.

They had given her the job as office manager after the company in which she worked for the father of one of two directors went into administration. Seventy members of staff lost their jobs and she was one of only four kept on as she was so highly regarded and was “treated like one of the family”.

Over four years until her dishonesty was detected in the autumn of 2015 Swan, who was paid £25,000 a year, stole money that should have been banked and frittered it away. A new accounting system had been introduced during that time which stopped her crimes for six months but after she persuaded her boss to let her take it over she resumed.

Judge Brian Cumming told Swan, who showed no emotion, that the case involved a “truly terrible and distressing state of affairs. This was persistent dishonesty and false accounting over four years. This is the third time you have been before a criminal court for thieving from your employers committed in flagrant breach of trust. You are just a thief. You have taken your employers for a ride and abused the decency shown to you. It is an utter disgrace.”

Swan, of Hollytree Way, Blackburn, admitted three offences of theft, false accounting and money laundering.

Kevin Slack, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that the mother-of-three hid the thefts by amalgamating the sums and not banking them each time.

In an impact statement, co-founder Jonathan Addis said he and partner Simon Yates had invested their personal savings and he had borrowed money against his home. “She was a completely aware of the sacrifices we were making and the financial risk we were exposed to,” he stated, adding they had been “shocked and numb” at her dishonesty.

Steven Swift, defending, said: “She knew this day would eventually come and in a way is glad now a line has been drawn in the sand and she can serve her sentence and look forward to reconciliation with her family.”