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Kleptomaniac conwoman booked wedding on company credit card

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: December 13, 2013

Exeter Crown Court (1)

Exeter Crown Court

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A kleptomaniac conwoman stole nine people’s identities and used their credit card details to furnish her home and book her wedding.

Laura Ward preyed on customers who used the seaside restaurant where she worked and fellow employees and bosses at a string of companies where she had short term jobs.

She copied details off other people’s cards and bank accounts and used them to buy £11,000 worth of goods and services over 18 months.

She even used the company credit card from one of her jobs to make the reservation for her wedding at Edinburgh Register Office.

The waitress and tele-canvasser used the cards to buy bedroom and dining room furniture, a £1,280 home cinema system, Timberland designer clothes and an online gift shop.

She stole the identity of her boss at an import export business and the landlady who was renting her a house, which she used to set up a direct debit to pay her water bill.

Ward, aged 28, of Giblands Park, Okehampton, and previously of Paradise Road, Teignmouth, admitted ten counts of fraud and was jailed for three months, suspended for two years and told to pay costs of £50 and a victim surcharge of £30 at Exeter Crown Court.

Recorder Mr Simon Levene did not order compensation after hearing all but £650 had been repaid by banks and she is now a young mother with health problems living on £270 a week benefits.

He told her:”You were completely untrustworthy and should never be entrusted with any confidential data whatsoever, when you consider the way you treated fellow workers and employers.

“Things should be locked up to make sure they are safe from you. These offences were committed over a long period of time and there was dishonesty from the outset.

“They all involved a breach of trust and using information that was put into your power because of the jobs you were doing.

“I am suspending the sentence because any prison term would be very short and I would prefer to have something hanging over your head. You are also the mother of a young child and are not well.”

Mr Gordon Richings, prosecuting, said Ward’s frauds started in the summer of 2011 when she worked as a waitress at The Boathouse Bar and Grill in Dawlish and used details from two customers’ cards to buy more than £300 furniture from Argos.

She was eventually traced when tourists found the rogue items on their statements and identified by her distinctive Scottish accent.

By that time she was already carrying out more swindles while working at a claims handling firm called Emcas, an import export firm called KLC, and a data handling company, all of which were based in Exeter.

She used details from customers or fellow employees at Emcas to buy £5,800 goods from Argos, Timberland and Dining Room World.

At the next office she borrowed the company credit card and used it for seven unauthorised payments totalling £428.50.

Bosses guessed who was to blame because she used the card to make a booking at the Edinburgh Register Office and hacked into the internet account of her boss to try to transfer £330 into her Bank of Scotland account.

She used the same details to obtain an Argos card which she used to buy a £1,280 home cinema system.

At her next job she sent out a false invoice for £650 and pocketed the money and used another worker’s details to spend £406.17 with Timberland, Light in a Box, and a watch company.

At the time she was living with her newlywed husband in Teignmouth, where she tricked her landlady into giving her bank account details by telling her she needed them to set up a direct debit for her rent.

She used them instead to put their South West Water bill on her account, running up a bill of £915 before she found out.

Mr Richings said the total amounts involved in the frauds was £11,000 and added:”The aggravating features are that she used other people’s identities and has numerous previous offences of fraud, theft and making off without payment in Scotland.”

Miss Ann Bellchambers, defending, said Ward had come to Devon from Scotland to start a new life and has suffered from ill health and depression and has been diagnosed as a kleptomaniac.

She said:”She accepts what she did was wrong and stupid but she has now changed her life. She is now a married woman and a mother and has not committed any more offences.”

She said she is now unemployed and receiving £79.15 a week in Personal Independence Payment, £137 a week in Employment Support Allowance and £55 as a mobility allowance while her husband receives £59.75 as her carer.

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  • EmmaTBaker  |  December 13 2013, 7:10PM

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