A crooked financial controller who lived in a mansion owned by Carol Vorderman has been jailed after she stole £1.5 million from her employers to fund a life of luxury.
Wendy Nichols, 49, siphoned cash from company accounts and used it to pay for flash cars, foreign holidays and even plastic surgery for herself and one of her daughters.
The mum-of-two rented a palatial apartment at Sloblock Hall, a £5 million country mansion in North Somerset owned by TV presenter Carol Vorderman.
Northampton Crown Court heard Nichols also bought her daughters plush BMW cars, paid for them to go to a private boarding school and splashed out on a £200,000 flat for one of them.
Nichols – who turned up to court wearing a figure-hugging dress similar to ones worn by Vorderman – covered her tracks by altering records and using the name of an ex-employee to authorise fraudulent transactions.
Between 2006 and August 2012 she stole a total of £1,537,608 from Logistex, based in Kettering, Northants.
She pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to theft and false accounting and on Wednesday she was jailed for five-a-and-a-half years.
Jailing Nichols, Judge Richard Bray told her she had breached the trust of her employer, where she had worked for ten years.
He said: “You used your position to defraud your employer over a period of six years.
“It is amazing to me that this was not detected sooner. The money was spent on the most blatant luxuries.”
Elizabeth Gooderham, prosecuting, said Nichols was rumbled when the financial director at her firm noticed an unusually large transaction and traced it to her personal account.
Further investigations revealed dozens of similar deposits from company funds.
Mrs Gooderham told the court: “The money was being spent on regular trips to department stores, holidays to New York, Dubai and Tenerife and cosmetic surgery for Nichols and one of her daughters.
“She bought her daughters a BMW Mini and BMW X3, she also paid for them to go to a private boarding school and bought one of them a flat in Glasgow which cost more than #200,000.
“It was an extravagant lifestyle not borne out by someone on a salary of between #50,000 and #60,000.”
Maxine Krone, defending, said Nichols, now of Glasgow, felt she had “created a monster” during the thefts, and had initially intended to pay the money back.
She added: “She is ashamed of herself and of the breach of trust.”
Mrs Krone said Nichols had arrived in court with her suitcase already packed as she fully expected a prison sentence.
Speaking after the case, Det Con Andy Hewitt, from Northamptonshire Police, said: “The next stage will be for a Proceeds of Crime hearing, to see if some of the money can be recovered.”
A date for the hearing has yet to be set.
Lawyer Julie Vickers, speaking on behalf of Logistex, said: “Wendy Nichols was employed by Logistex for almost ten years and held a senior financial management position.
“We placed our trust in her in a role that required honesty and professionalism.
“At no time in that period did we have reason to doubt the integrity and trust we placed in her.
“It is therefore with great disappointment that we have discovered the theft.
“She breached the trust we placed in her by systematically stealing money from the company over an extended period of time.
“As soon as the theft became known to the company we moved quickly to resolve the problem and Wendy Nichols was removed from her position.
“Logistex remains financially robust.”