Two trusted bingo cashiers who stole more than £183,000 from their employers were caught while they were enjoying a holiday together.
Jorun Chang, 58, and Jeanette Warrilow, 59, pocketed £20,000 each a year while working at Pavilion Bingo Club, Toxteth, and managed to cover their tracks for four years.
The company was running at loss while they carried out their swindle before they were busted when an eagle-eyed manager spotted takings were higher than usual after the two friends went away, Liverpool Echo reports.
Both mums had worked for Pavilion for more than two decades and Liverpool Crown Court heard the historic bingo hall, which is owned by Mark and Gary Armstrong, had around 30 staff.
Cheryl Mottram, prosecuting, said the "extremely trusted" women were cashiers, while Chang also acted as a relief manager.
They had to collect cash from customers for bingo cards and electronic terminals, then record payments manually on a reconciliation sheet.
At the end of each session, the cashier had to calculate the totals and submit a print off, together with the reconciliation sheet.
In September 2016, manager Philip Corran noticed takings for a Saturday session were "significantly higher than normal".
When he looked at figures for previous Saturdays, when Warrilow was on shift, he realised the print outs and reconciliation sheets didn't match, because she was inputting lower amounts.
On her return from holiday, Warrilow was confronted but claimed she had simply made mistakes and left the office.
She was suspended and confessed at a disciplinary hearing that month, when she also apologised.
Ms Mottram said: "Asked if anyone else was involved, she said she couldn't answer that question."
Chang had been on holiday with Warrilow and receipts showed she had used the same method to steal money.
Ms Mottram said: "A check of the week before she had gone away on holiday showed £1,400 was unaccounted for."
Records from 2012 to 2016 were "painstakingly analysed" and revealed the pair began stealing hundreds of pounds, but this increased steadily with them eventually "taking well over £20,000 per year each".
Ms Mottram said using the lowest estimates, Warrilow stole £83,500 and Chang took £99,900.
She said at times during this period Pavilion had been running at a loss and "staffing levels" had to be changed.
Ms Mottram said: "The Crown don't suggest Ms Chang and Ms Warrilow were solely responsible for those issues, but it certainly wouldn't have helped any financial difficulties."
When interviewed by police that October, Warrilow said she had been stealing money for up to two years.
She said it was a "temptation" as management didn't check the sheets and "she knew she could get away with it".
Ms Mottram said Warrilow explained she had debts and a gambling addiction and "expressed some remorse".
Chang gave two "no comment" interviews in October 2016 and July 2017.
The two women - both of previous good character - weren't charged until December 2020 and admitted theft by employee earlier this year.
Ms Mottram said the Crown couldn't provide a satisfactory explanation for the "significant delay", other than that the police officer originally in charge of the case had retired.
Brendan Carville, defending Chang, from Everton, said his client now worked as a pub landlady.
He said both the victims and defendants had to wait four years for justice and if the case had been dealt with in 2017, his client would likely have already served a prison sentence and licence period.
Mr Carville said while Chang answered "no comment" generally in her first interview, at the end she was asked "are you sorry for what you have done?" and answered "yes", so "the police knew certainly by October 3, 2016 this was an admission to the offence".
He said: "My submission is this delay, which can't be laid at her door, is such a long delay that your honour can suspend the sentence."
David Woods, defending Warrilow, from Anfield, said she had actually worked for Pavilion and an associated bingo hall - Carlton in Orrell Park where she was a bingo caller - for around 30 years.
He said Warrilow had been a "hard working and loyal employee" but during a time of "great financial stress" including now resolved gambling issues she had "taken advantage" of the system at Pavilion.
Mr Woods said: "As a result of her actions she has lost her job, she has lost her reputation and her good character, and she has suffered a lot of anxiety whilst waiting in relation to this matter."
He pointed out that Warrilow admitted responsibility "almost immediately" because she "felt ashamed".
Recorder Ian Unsworth, QC, said: "This is both a serious case involving a significant sustained breach of trust, involving the theft of quite astronomical sums of money from their employers, but also an extremely sad case - that two women aged in their late 50s, now with families, who prior to this offence, beginning some time in 2012, were of good character and they have thrown that all away through their own greed."
He said Pavilion Bingo Hall was "at risk at the time" and "running at a loss" and "it wasn't clear to the owners just how it could be".
The judge said: "By your actions you placed the livelihoods of others at risk. That company could have collapsed and other hard working and honest people could have lost their jobs as a direct result of your greed."
Recorder Unsworth said: "There has been a quite extraordinary delay in this case. It's bluntly inexplicable."
He said the "very sorry history" of the case included a two-year period from 2017 to 2019 "when simply nothing happened".
The judge said: "That's inexcusable and I've asked for an explanation from the Chief Crown Prosecutor of Merseyside."
Recorder Unsworth said he was reducing the sentences because of the delay as he jailed Chang for 16 months and Warrilow for 12 months, who cried in the dock while family members in the public gallery sobbed.