A Wigan office manageress was jailed in disgrace today after she stole almost £100,000 from work – so she could live like a ‘TOWIE girl’.
Louise Hitchen, 27, syphoned compensation money which was earmarked for clients of a PPI claims firm into her own bank account and spent it on high living.
The brunette underwent around £5,000 worth of breast enhancement surgery, bought herself a convertible sports car and embarked on a giant spending spree at shops, bars and restaurants – like the stars of ITV’s The Only Way Is Essex.
She was unmasked as a thief when she walked out on her job at Hardwick Financial Solutions Ltd based in Wigan.
A client who successfully claimed she had been mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance queried the whereabouts of her payout with the claims firm.
Staff investigated and discovered Hitchen had diverted the settlement money herself. Up to 14 other clients were affected by Hitchen’s thefts and the company have now reported having to shed jobs due to her thieving.
At Liverpool Crown Court Hitchen, of School Street, Newton-Le-Willows, Merseyside admitted two counts of fraud by abuse of position of trust and was jailed for 12 months.
She has since handed back a total of £23,000 including a Vauxhall Astra convertible she bought with the stolen money.
Police said Hardwick dealt with PPI claims and settlements to clients – Hitchen joined in March 2011 as an administration manager.
But trouble began following a period of poor performance when she left the office on October 19 2012, and did not return for her next shift. She later resigned.
In December 2012, Hitchen’s former line manager was contacted by a customer who was querying where the funds were.
An investigation was launched and it was established that the client’s money had been paid into Hitchen’s account, rather than the account of Hardwick Financial Solutions LTD.
Some funds were returned by Hitchen at this time, including the Astra.
The firm also discovered electronic and paper records of transactions had been deleted so they had no way of establishing whether any other funds had been stolen.
Another client then contacted the firm in March 2013, who was claimed to be owed cash.
Police were called and an investigation was launched.
Hitchen’s bank accounts were checked and fifteen transfers were identified that had come from two companies who settle claims with Hardwick Financial Solutions LTD.
The total payments into Louise Hitchen’s bank account was £93,250.56. Police said the money was used to pay for a breast enhancement and a car and numerous transactions were made at food and retail outlets.
Police established that funds due to 15 people who had utilised the services of the company had not received claims. The claimants have been reimbursed.
After the case Detective Constable Mark Edwards, from Greater Manchester Police said: “In the space of about four months Louise Hitchen stole close to £100,000.
“With the exception of the cosmetic surgery and car, which has since been returned, Louise Hitchen frittered away much of the cash on shopping sprees and trips out.
“The cost to Hardwick Financial Solutions LTD has been significant and has included staff losing their jobs but the only person Louise thought about while she had her ‘hand in the till’ was herself.”
Image courtesy of ITV via YouTube, with thanks