A young mum-of-one who went on a spending spree after a bungling council accidentally credited her bank account with £52,000 has walked free from court.
Michaela Hutchings, 23, spent £9,000 on designer clothes, sunglasses and other items in a matter of hours after realising the blunder.
She also gave her mother Elaine, 43, £1,000 in cash before she was caught by police following the mistake on April 24 last year.
She admitted dishonesty and retaining a wrongly-credited bank transfer when she appeared at Stafford Crown Court on Monday.
Hutchings, of Lichfield, West Mids., was given a 12-month community order and told to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
Recorder Derek Desmond said: “On 24 April last year, a little over £52,000 was put in to your account in error.
“That had nothing to do with you. You didn’t cause that error, but you decided to keep it, knowing, after a short while it was wrong and you failed to take reasonable steps to cancel it.
“I have no doubt you were influenced by your partner, he wanted to spend the money. You went on a spending spree and between you, you spent £9,000.
“This man who spurred you on is no longer in your life – no doubt your family will be glad about that.”
The court heard an administrative error meant Lichfield District Council accidentally transferred £52,000 into her account instead of Bromford Housing Association.
The council managed to stop a further £44,500 being transferred into Hutchings’ account and desperately tried to trace her to explain the error.
But by the time they caught Hutchings, she had already spent over £9,000 after going on a shopping spree at Birmingham’s Bullring centre.
The court heard Hutchings and her partner bought designer clothes, shoes, jeans, sunglasses and other luxuries.
When she was caught officers discovered she had transferred £40,000 into an investment account after taking advice from her bank who were unaware of the mistake.
That account is now frozen under a restraining order and Hutchings will face an investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover all the money.
Phillip Bradley, defending, said she admitted to a “fleeting moment of pleasure” in spending the money.
He added: “However, in her mind she was aware this situation would end badly. This was a woman who had shown no sign of dishonesty in her life.”
Hutchings left the court in tears after being told she would not be jailed.
Councillor Christopher Spruce, of Lichfield District Council, said after the hearing: “Last April, due to a contractor’s clerical error, #52,000 was transferred to a benefits claimant, rather than to one of our housing association partners.
“We are working with the police to recover the wrongly-transferred funds.
“We are also working closely with our partners to put additional checks into our systems to ensure a similar payment error cannot happen again in the future.”