A FINANCE director who “preyed on” her employers to steal over £600,000, giving more than half to a “romance fraudster” from Bradford, has been jailed.

Ilyiea Ali, 42, admitted that between March 2015, and April 2016, she took £610,144 from Information Security Forum Ltd (ISF), described as the “world’s leading authority on cyber, information security and risk management.”

Ali had already pleaded guilty to the theft, with Bradford Crown Court told that more than £300,000 of the money had been paid to a gambling addict called Tahmoor Khan.

Khan, then of Bude Road, West Bowling, Bradford, was jailed for eight-and-half years in October 2016 after the same court heard he had wrecked the lives of two women by conning them out of a quarter of a million pounds.

After amassing £80,000 debts at casinos, Khan targeted the women via a dating website and persuaded them to hand over money to him, promising to pay them back. He posed as a successful businessman, but pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation, with the court told he lived in a “Walter Mitty world of deception.”

The court heard during a previous hearing that while Khan’s other victims appeared to have lent him their own money, Ali also used funds belonging to her employer.

Prosecutor Tom Storey said Ali had started working for ISF in 2010, progressing to an annual wage of more than £68,000.

He said that in 2016, police in Bradford who were investigating Khan’s bank accounts discovered a number of transactions in Ali’s name.

Mr Storey said: “He (Khan) would request money from women on the pretext that he would marry them. This defendant was one of several women targeted in this way.” Ali later admitted she had paid money into Khan’s accounts, but said she knew him as Sohail Hussain, who had told her he needed help to keep his car business afloat.

The court heard that the money was mainly siphoned from a US-based City Bank account, used for payroll purposes. In Spring 2015, Ali had gained access to the funds and made payments totalling £513,340 to accounts in her name.

Mr Storey said that of the £610,144 stolen, “at least” £319,000 was transferred to Khan, with £191,000 going to family members to whom Ali owed money.

The court was told that even after police began their investigations, Ali stole another £75,000, with some of the money used to pay for a holiday to Dubai.

Despite that, Mr Storey said: “The crown concede she (Ali) was not living a lavish lifestyle”, adding that “it was clear her own financial position was in a parlous state.”

WhatsApp messages between Ali and Khan said the latter would “request and demand” money from the defendant, with mentions of a relationship and marriage between the pair.

In a statement, the managing director of ISF said that the money stolen represented a “large loss” to the not-for-profit organisation, representing 7.4 per cent of its annual turnover.

Mr Storey said: “The reason the money was not accounted for was because she (Ali) was the person responsible for identifying financial anomalies.”

Lisa Wilson, defending, said her client, of Botteville Road, Birmingham, had suffered an “extremely troubling” life affected by different types of abuse, leading to her suffering from chronic depression.

She argued that Ali had been given an “inappropriate degree of trust” by ISF, as the organisation were aware she was in fact a qualified accountant. She added that the defendant had hoped to be able to pay ISF back before the US account she stole from was audited.

Miss Wilson said: “Having lost everything of her own she found herself giving in to temptation and committing this offence. She did want to pay them back. She herself was a victim, that is what lay behind the offending.”

Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said that Ali, who he described as having a “chaotic financial history”, had managed to to circumvent the checks and balances put in place by ISF to prevent fraud.

He told Ali: “It would be nice if your advocate could say that all the money went to the fraudster Khan. It’s quite right to say that set against your appallingly unhappy history that you were ripe for fraud. The problem is, that was only about half the money you took.

“It seems to me that the scale of this demands that I send a message, however heavy the heart, that while we understand you have been used, you were preying on your company to gain amounts most of us can only dream of in cash. The least sentence I can impose on you is one of 30 months. People have to learn, have to know, have to think, that if they want to do this then there will be very serious consequences.”