A finance worker at am airline catering firm gambled away so much of of her bosses’ money that she was given ‘VIP’ status has been jailed.
Financial supervisor Anjna Aggarwal, 37, secretly pocketed £680,000 from the Manchester Airport-based company to fund her addiction to internet casinos.
During her spree, Aggarwal who earned £24,500 a year in the sales ledger department of an airport catering company, set up 12 different bank accounts to deposit stolen money then switch it around.
She even recruited single mother Olivia Renee to accept sums of up to £90,000 a time in her account which they then divided up later.
During text exchanges the friend – who was on state benefits – asked what to do if her bank became suspicious about large deposits that were made – only for Aggarwal to advise her to falsely claim the money was compensation for the death of a baby.
The secret scam went on for two years until officials at Alpha LSG, which supplies in-flight food to airlines including British Airways and Emirates, discovered discrepancies in their accounts and realised Aggarwal had been faking invoices.
At the time the firm had been recording losses and was considering redundancies.
In a statement Financial Director Ian Uken said: ‘This is not a faceless company. She was calculating and organised in the way that she went about covering up her actions. It is estimated that it took more than one year of senior management time to unravel the fraudulent trail.
‘It was at a time that the company was experiencing a loss and we were considering redundancies, so for her to continue shows how little she thought of other workers. Many other employees were under investigation for some time and that affected the company also.’
Olivia Renee, 49, of Ardwick Green, Manchester admitted money laundering and was jailed for a year
At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, Aggarwal, of Lower Broughton, near Salford, was jailed for four years after she pleaded guilty to fraud, false accounting and money laundering.
Renee, 49, of Ardwick Green, Manchester admitted money laundering and was jailed for a year.
The court heard Aggarwal had joined the firm as an agency worker before taking up a full-time position in our accounts department from June 2012 and was later being promoted to supervisor.
She embarked on the scam in 2014 and used the traditional book-keeping fraud known as ‘teeming and lading’ which involves the delaying of genuine payments whilst stealing money to make it appear as if the books were balancing.
Prosecutor Miss Lisa Boocock said: ‘She created false documents and invoices and 83% of the false transactions was for British Airways in which she falsified documents and payment requirements.
‘She had in excess of 12 bank accounts to which she credited money. She was quite calculating in her method to conceal what she was doing.
‘She uses those accounts to simply absorb the large amounts of money that were coming in.
‘There were five Halifax accounts which were only opened for six weeks and then closed. Barclays had a similar account that was opened for ten months and was then closed.
‘She would transfer the money to one account and sometimes in two to three days that money would be in other accounts.’
Renee became involved in the scam in November 2014 as part of an arrangement to get ‘debt free.’
Miss Boocock added: ‘It’s very clear throughout that the two of them were working closely together.
Renee was playing an active part in the messages and was asking when money was arriving and messaging when it didn’t arrive and when it should.
‘They discussed on one particular occasions that Aggarwal would transfer £90,000 to Renee’s bank account and Renee could keep £23,000 for herself if she transferred £66,000 back to her. They also have conversations about being worried about being undetected.
‘When Renee asked what she she do if she was detected the defendant old her that she should say she had just lost a baby and the money was compensation for the loss of that child. She even gave Renee reference numbers to give out if challenged about the money that was coming into the account.’
Both of the defendents were jailed at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester (pictured)
Police were called in last January after the firm spent up to a year investigating what happened to the missing money. Miss Boocock said: ‘She said that she had started taking the money in order to pay for her dying mothers operation and her fathers debts, and she accepted gambling £7,000 of the money.
‘But she gambled at such a rate she was a VIP customer in betting shops and she had her own advisors to assist her in her gambling. Investigations revealed that the defendant gambled away £600,000 of the money she had taken, winning back just £98,000 of it.’
In mitigation Aggarwal’s lawyer William Staunton said his client’s mother did not not she was in court over the stolen money He added: ‘She did not have an addiction to drugs, or alcohol or a lavish lifestyle which are all compulsive behaviours, but she had another compulsive behaviour in gambling.
‘Putting that amount of money on the table is a reckless act, in her case it was also dishonest. She has lost her good character and her employment and has made it impossible for any future employer to trust her again.
‘She is mindful of the impact this has had on others and it is important to note that she has recognised that her actions did impact the company and put the victims in financial difficulty.
‘She has been advised to talk to her mother and tell her of the position she is in but she has chosen not to. She has written a letter that will be given to her mother.’
Passing sentence Judge Tina Landale told Aggarwal: ‘This was a gross breach of trust. You used your position to manipulate accounts and falsify documents and you used a calculating method to carry out your frauds.
Alpha LSG, the company which Aggarwal worked for, is based at Manchester Airport
‘The text messages between you show you were both calculating and were both driven by greed to find an easy way to clear your debts. You spoke about what would happen if you did get caught and how you would talk your way out of it. But you did get caught.
‘This complex fraud had serious consequences for the company, a number of employees were under suspicion and that had an effect on morale – yet ploughed on with your fraud regardless.’
After the case Alpha LSG said: ‘We carry out rigorous background checks on all new employees and the checks and references on Ms Aggarwal were all in order when she was appointed. She was dismissed from the business in early 2016 after discrepancies in a customer account, for which she was responsible for reconciling invoices and payments, was discovered.
‘A full review of our financial procedures was carried out immediately we became aware of this situation, and controls have been further strengthened to ensure it cannot happen again. The money involved in this theft belonged to our company and none of our customers were financially impacted by this very sophisticated fraud.’
The case comes just days after it was reported a Premier League footballer blew his entire £15million fortune after becoming addicted to online gambling.