A fraud victim has spoken of her shock after finding a crooked employee she counted as a close friend drained her business of of more than £20,000 to fund a Champagne lifestyle.
Mum-of-three Jane Gregory, of Aldebury Road, Maidenhead, was sentenced to 16 months in prison at Reading Crown Court on Friday after admitting three counts of fraud. She stole from her employers at the Old Devil Inn, Knowl Hill.
Landlady Sarah Larner said the betrayal nearly ruined the business she runs with her husband David, 66.
The 50-year-old said Gregory had the audacity to console her as she struggled to keep the business afloat as cash disappeared.
"It's the ultimate betrayal," she said.
She watched as Gregory, 45, ate at the Michelin-starred Waterside Inn in Bray, visited Jerusalem on a pilgrimage and enjoyed a luxury holiday to Lanzarote. She said: "This isn't a family on the breadline, this is a woman who wanted a certain lifestyle."
"She suddenly had a Radley handbag and took her parents to the Waterside.
"She would buy cases of wine and Champagne for Christmas and order £60 bouquets of flowers."
The Oxfordshire couple, who have a daughter named Holly, 20, opened the Bath Road pub and restaurant in 2007 with Gregory as general manager.
The court heard that Gregory, a member of St Edmund Campion RC Parish Church, had served 15 months in prison for theft from Busy Bee Cleaning Services in Wooburn Green in 1999.
Sarah was convinced by Gregory she had turned over a new leaf and wanted to give her friend the chance to rebuild her reputation.
"I didn't believe that she could do the same to me," she added.
"She just seemed so terribly remorseful. She said she hated it [in prison] and could never do anything like that again."
After taking a break, Gregory returned to the pub as manager in June 2010 and over 11 months refunds between £200 to £600 were made to three debit cards linked to a Maidenhead-based Halifax account.
Judge Peter Ross heard how Gregory, who cried in the dock, had made refunds on 58 occasions totalling £21,750.
Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service crown advocate Deirdre Philpott said: "This outcome sends out a clear message to others who engage in this type of crime; that they will be caught and brought before the courts for punishment."
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