A FRAUDSTER who lied about being in hospital to avoid being sentenced for stealing £155,000 from her employers is today behind bars.
Conwoman Joanne Brooks, 42, sat expressionless in the dock at Portsmouth Crown Court yesterday as she was jailed for five-and-a-half years for plundering the cash from couple Roy and Laura Carvalho’s business.
Judge Sarah Munro QC, sentencing, said: ‘This family will never recover from what you did. You have ruined them financially and left them destitute and irreparably harmed.’
Mum-of-three Brooks’ web of deceit started when she was employed by Mr and Mrs Carvalho as an administrative officer at their Gosport firm CA Automotive Technology.
She became a trusted friend of the couple, who made her responsible for paying suppliers using singed blank cheques they gave her.
But between October 2009 and July 2011 Brooks, of Binsteed Road, Buckland, Portsmouth plundered nearly £156,000 instead of paying the bills – leaving the family destitute.
The couple lost their business, were forced to spend their lifesavings and put their home on the market.
Meanwhile she splashed their cash on expensive holidays – including one to Barbados – shopping, restaurants and said she gave away some cash.
Her deception was uncovered by Mrs Carvalho when Brooks was on holiday last year. She was sacked and the police were called.
Even after she admitted two counts of fraud, Brooks was arrested on a warrant and charged with failing to surrender to bail after twice failing to turn up for her sentencing, claiming to be seriously ill.
Brooks on one occasion lied to her solicitors, claiming she was going into hospital for heart surgery. She later admitted the charge.
Following the sentence Martyn Booth, crown advocate for the Crown Prosecution Service Wessex, said: ‘The sentence passed Judge Munro QC demonstrates the extremely serious nature of this fraud and the dim view taken of anyone who tries to avoid justice.’