Jailed Farmfoods Worker Ordered to Pay Back £77k After Defrauding Supermarket out of £275k

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A Farmfoods worker has been jailed for 21 months and has been ordered to forfeit £77,000. This comes after he scammed the supermarket chain out of £275,000 by forging the signatures of company directors on cheques. Below, we discuss the extraordinary events and how employers can protect themselves from similar consequences.

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Farmfoods Worker Steals £275k Through Forged Cheques

John Brown, age 61, worked as a management accountant at Farmfoods’ headquarters in Cumbernauld, Scotland. In June 2019, the Royal Bank of Scotland alerted directors of the supermarket chain to suspicious account activity. This prompted an internal investigation, which brought a number of forged cheques to the supermarket’s attention.

They found that the Farmfoods worker had issued several cheques to his personal bank account by fabricating various directors’ signatures between 2015 and 2018. The directors whom John Brown had impersonated unequivocally denied signing the cheques. After further inspection, the handwriting proved to be that of the Farmfoods employee.

A Farmfoods worker has been issued with a £77k confiscation order. This comes after he stole £275k from the supermarket chain. He has also been imprisoned for 21 months as a result.

To deceive the supermarket and evade detection, John Brown had been writing off prepayments and accruals. This ensured his forged cheques didn’t raise suspicion and get flagged up. In fact, the conduct of the Farmfoods worker was only highlighted when the company accounts were reviewed during the investigation.

In total, the supermarket found John Brown had cashed in £275,000 worth of forged cheques. Subsequently, the police were informed of their findings, and he was sacked in July 2019. Once proceedings concluded, the Farmfoods employee was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment and issued a confiscation order to pay £77,000 back to the supermarket.

Despite this, the Airdrie Sheriff Court acknowledged the Farmfoods worker had benefited by £275,000 through his crimes. As such, future seizures of his money and assets could be made to settle the outstanding funds payable.

Employee Theft isn’t out of the Ordinary

Unfortunately for employers, the case of the Farmfoods worker isn’t singular. When Northern Divers Ltd changed how they paid employee expenses from cash to bank transfers during the pandemic, one of their employees took advantage. Angela Hunter exploited the far less detectable system and stole around £85,000 from her employer.

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Separately, The Eugene Weekly, a local newspaper in Oregon, had to lay off all its staff in December 2023 following a theft. According to its editor-in-chief, an employee had embezzled tens of thousands of dollars.

Technology Could Stop Fraud in its Tracks

Employers must take preventative measures to ensure that incidents like the one involving the Farmfoods worker don’t happen to them. Firstly, employers must be meticulous during their recruitment. This may include complete reference checks, thorough interviews, and full but fair employee vetting. It’s important to identify concerns and act accordingly but ensure that the actions taken by the employer aren’t discriminatory.

Secondly, the employer should lay the foundations for effective accountability procedures. In many cases, employees who exploit their employer only get away with their conduct because they’re left to their own devices. However, if power is spread among several employees, the individual will be less able to exploit the system without going unnoticed.

Finally, spotting suspicious activity can sometimes be difficult when the thief knows what they are doing. They may have the authority to prevent their activities from being flagged or attempt to hide them in masses of data. Here, implementing IT tools could be essential. In such circumstances, the software could highlight things unlikely to be detected by a human and stop the illegal activities in their tracks.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article about the Farmfoods worker. For the latest updates, sign up for our newsletter today! Also, if you have any employment law issues, contact Redmans Solicitors now.

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