An accounts worker who embarked on an “orgy of greed and self indulgence” after stealing more than £2 million from her employer, has been jailed for five years.
Julie Nickerson, and her husband Anthony, who covered up for his wife’s years of plunder, spent the money on a lavish lifestyle, including expensive foreign holidays, luxury cars and attending motorsport events, Bradford Crown Court heard yesterday.
The judge, Recorder Anthony Hawks, told blonde Julie Nickerson, 55: “You and your husband did not need money. You were comfortably off, and what you did was to simply embark on an orgy of greed and self indulgence which only really came to an end when you were made redundant.
“You lived a lavish lifestyle – expensive houses, artwork, holidays that other people could only dream of, sports cars, attending corporate events... the list goes on.”
Jailing her 48-year-old husband for two-and-a-half years, Recorder Hawks said: “When you found out what your wife was doing, it’s quite clear you didn’t seek to put a stop to her dishonesty. You were rabidly on board.”
Prosecutor Nick Askins told the court that Julie Nickerson was employed in the accounts and finance department of a commercial laundry equipment supplier in Halifax.
She was responsible for ordering cash used by the company in its business, and made a record in a book and on the company’s computerised accounting system of cash deliveries.
Mr Askins said that she stole cash from her employer from 2005, and the method was straightforward.
“When the cash arrived, she would record in the cash book only part of the sum delivered and the rest of the money she would take home.
“To account for the rest of the debit she would make false payment records on the computerised accounting system to give the appearance that a payment had been made. By this means a very substantial amount of money was stolen.”
Mr Askins said that after Nickerson was made redundant, in December 2012, financial discrepancies were discovered. Of just under £4 million delivered to the company since 2005, Nickerson had stolen £2,342,640.
Mr Askins added: “As a result of her stealing, the Nickerson household was awash with cash. The cash that she stole was used to fund a lavish lifestyle for her and her husband.”
The prosecutor said that Anthony Nickerson was the proprietor of a newsagents and general store, Wade House Newsagents in Wade House Road, Shelf.
He said: “The declared profit rose remarkably from 2008 onwards because the money stolen by Julie Nickerson was being laundered, in part, by her husband through his business.”
Mr Askins said Revenue and Customs began investigating Mr Nickerson in 2009. He approached an accountant who referred his case to a firm of specialist tax advisers, which prepared a report.
Mr Askins said the firm was given misleading instructions and the report contained the “bizarre suggestion” that since the mid-1970s Julie Nickerson had given her mother sums of money, by way of board or for safekeeping.
“Upon her death in 1996, Julie had found a suitcase at her mother’s home that contained a substantial amount of cash. The tax advisers estimated there must have been almost £650,000 in the suitcase to account for the subsequent spending of Julie and Anthony.
“There was also a letter in the suitcase saying the money was for Julie. It was further suggested in the report that the money might have been the mother’s gambling winnings.
“In reality, the account about the inheritance was false,” Mr Askins added. “The pair had actually been spending the cash stolen by Julie Nickerson.
“As it happens, the mother of Julie Nickerson had lived, before her death, in a one-bedroom flat. She had been in very poor health for the last 15 years of her life and had not worked for the last ten. After her retirement she lived on benefits. She did not gamble.”
The court heard about the Nickersons’ lavish lifestyle from the stolen money.
They bought a property, Wainstalls House, set in five acres of land, for more than half a million pounds.
After moving in, the couple spent significant sums on furnishing and improving the property. More than £25,000 was spent on windows, a piano was bought for £3,500 and a hot spring and exercise pool installed at a cost of £5,836.
The luxurious interior lifestyle was captured on a video covertly recorded by private investigators hired by Julie Nickerson’s employers.
A previous property the couple had lived in, Beaumont Bungalow, was re-mortgaged. The monthly £1,500 repayments were added to the £3,000 monthly mortgage repayments for the main property.
Anthony Nickerson spent nearly £17,000 on film memorabilia at Christie’s auction house, and in five years the couple spent more than £10,000 on attending motorsport events at Silverstone.
Between 2006 and 2012 they spent a staggering £193,899 on holidays with a luxury foreign travel organisation.
Invoices seized by the police suggested they lived well and spent freely while on holiday, including on acquiring jewellery.
They each bought new Mercedes-Benz cars, at a cost of almost £86,000 and later they acquired two additional leased Mercedes.
In mitigation, Julie Nickerson’s barrister, Oliver Jarvis, said that from the moment she had started stealing she had embarked on a life of worry, terror and fear of being caught.
Mr Jarvis said she had suffered an abusive childhood and two negative marriages. She had low self esteem and had a misguided belief that she needed all those possessions for those around her to love her. She had complete remorse, guilt and sorrow for her offending.
Julie Nickerson pleaded guilty to stealing £2.3m from her employer, and money laundering and fraud in relation to a false representation to Revenue and Customs.
Anthony Nickerson pleaded guilty to laundering £924,190 of the stolen cash, between July 2009 and December 2012.
He acquired Wade House Newsagents, a newsagents and general store in Wade House Road, Shelf, in October 2005.
He submitted yearly tax returns to HM Revenue and Customs, but the court heard his declared profit rose remarkably from 2008 onwards – when he laundered his wife’s stolen money through his business.
Declared profits soared from £33,640 in 2006/7 to £96,130 in 2009/10, £90,395 in 2010/11 and £77,959 in 2011/12.
His business became the subject of an investigation by HMRC’s Civil Investigation of Fraud Office in 2009.
The report by the firm of specialist tax advisers said that after the couple were married, in 2004, she began to make cash deposits in to the bank accounts of herself and her husband. It was spent in a variety of ways before running out in mid 2008.
After that they had been drawing cash from Wade House News.
Recorder Hawks told the couple: “These are extremely serious offences which can only be met by significant sentences of custody.”
He said they had a joint legitimate income of nearly £60,000.
“In a lot of people’s books, you were very comfortably off.”
But he told Julie Nickerson she had stolen “relentlessly” from her employer. He said it went on for seven years and it was a “source of astonishment that this continued as long as it did.”
He said it might be that when her offending did not come to light, it became a habit.
He told her: “To your credit you pleaded guilty and didn’t seek to put the blame on anybody else.”