A garden centre company secretary who was "trusted implicitly" is facing a stretch behind bars after she stole almost £166,000 from the business.
Lynda Whalley, 66, defrauded ACW Garden Centre in Bradford and sister company Woodbank Nurseries and Garden Centre in Harden, Bingley for nine years, from 2006 to 2015.
This week she pleaded guilty to theft at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates' Court and was granted bail. Sentencing will take place later at Bradford Crown Court, and District Judge Richard Clews warned Whalley that "there is a very serious risk of a prison sentence".
ACW managing director Andrew Walmsley told diyweek.net that Whalley had worked for him for "three months short of 25 years. I employ over 100 staff on the two sites and only invited two of them to my wedding and she was one of them - and then she's done this to me and was doing it at that time."
He said the business had been lucky to survive Whalley's siphoning away of money, which one year had even meant the other staff having to do without a pay rise.
"Obviously we've been looking for a hole in the bucket for nine years and not understanding why the company's not doing as well as hoped," he went on. "And it's come to light she had her hand in the till.
"She was creating invoices that were not real and then changing the payee to herself. It came to light when the accountants picked up on there being no paperwork to support the invoices. We found multiple entries.
"She was challenged but denied it for some time afterwards until she was confronted with the evidence.
"It's caused all sorts of problems in house, soul-searching about where's the profit margin going - and, of course she's in on these conversations and she's kept shtum. You've trusted someone implicitly, and it undermines your trust in people."
Mr Walmsley said that although Whalley had been caught the business would remain out of pocket. "We have a freeze on her assets and house at the moment, but they'll nowhere near cover the loss," he said.
He added that he thought it right that Whalley go to jail for her crime. "Yes, I'm not a nasty person, I don't hate, but she knew what she was doing and has to take the consequences. She knew she was doing wrong, so let the law do what it will," he said.