School accountant jailed for £490k accounts fraud

School accountant jailed for £490k accounts fraud

Apr 11, 2023

A former school finance manager who stole hundreds of thousands of pounds from her employer has been jailed for six and a half years.

Debra Poole, a business manager for Hinchley Wood Primary School in Esher, was in charge of the school bank accounts at the time. In total, she stole £490,000 before the crime was noticed.

She was convicted of one count of fraud by abuse of position and three counts of fraud by false representation under sections 4 and 2 of the Fraud Act 2006 at an earlier hearing.

As well as managing the school’s finances, Poole also oversaw the documentation used for any changes to staff pay.

She was also in charge of managing the invoices and finances for Woody’s, the school’s breakfast and after school clubs.

The court heard how Poole abused her position as signatory of the club’s bank account between 14 October 2011 and 10 October 2018 by transferring funds, writing out cheques to herself and then cashing the cheques. This amounted to a total of over £490,000 over the seven-year period.

On or around 13 February 2009, Poole also submitted a variation in pay form to Surrey County Council payroll team, in which she increased her pay scale from level E to F. Two years later, on or around 14 November 2011, she submitted further paperwork increasing her pay scale from level SP9 to SP10, giving her a salary of £80,000.

She also claimed that between 1 June 2016 and 10 September 2018 she was working 30 hours a week administering the breakfast club and after school clubs.

Poole took a string of exotic holidays, which included a five-star getaway at a Greek holiday resort costing over £13,000. She also bought three new cars including a £29,000 Peugeot SUV.

Detective constable Lloyd Ives, who investigated the case, said: ‘Debra Poole stole hundreds of thousands of pounds from Hinchley Wood Primary School while she was employed there as business manager.

‘This gross breach of trust and her elaborate deception spanning some nine years funded an extravagant lifestyle and afforded her luxury holidays and cars which she would not otherwise have been able to afford.

‘No doubt Debra would have continued had the school not worked out what was going on and reported the matter to police. This resulted in a lengthy and complex investigation which included examining bank accounts and hundreds of documents to prove that she had defrauded the school.

‘I hope that the sentence given to her shows the seriousness with which such a massive abuse of trust and position is taken and I hope that it is a deterrent to anyone else thinking of committing similar offences that it is simply not worth the risk – you will get found out.’

Her husband, Gary Poole, was found not guilty of one charge of acquisition, use and possession, contrary to section 329(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.