United Kingdom

Office manager who lied about having baby to avoid prison after stealing is jailed for eight months

An officer manager who lied that she'd just had a baby to avoid prison after stealing £7,700 from work to fund her cocaine habit has been jailed for eight months.  

Heather McCarthy, 33, used the fictitious birth to make a tearful plea for mercy last November, claiming she hadn't told anyone about her child because of 'post natal depression.' 

As a result she was handed a suspended sentence as the judge was reluctant to separate the mother from her child.

McCarthy, who'd burned the cash on drink and drugs, sobbed in the dock and repeated 'thank you so much,' as the judge ordered for her to be freed. 

But following publication of her court appearance, suspicions were raised as to the existence of her baby and she was quizzed at her home in Liverpool and ordered back to court.  

Heather McCarthy, 33, (left and outside court, right) used the fictitious birth to make a tearful plea for mercy last November, claiming she hadn't told anyone about her child because of 'post natal depression' 

After initially prevaricating and promising to produce a birth certificate, McCarthy eventually broke down and admitted there was no baby, claiming she came up with the story in a fit of 'panic' as her current partner has children.

On Thursday at Manchester Crown Court, Judge Paul Lawton activated McCarthy's eight month suspended prison sentence after she admitted contempt of court and condemned her 'brazen and outrageous' lies.

McCarthy wept again as the judge told her: 'Before I sentenced you in November I was told you were a single mother, and you said you had not disclosed this to anyone because you had been suffering from post-natal depression.

'I told you I would take you at your word as I could not imagine anyone in your position could be quite so brazenly dishonest.

'You knew any judge dealing with a single mother would only separate mother and child as a last resort. I made it clear that that information persuaded me to pass a suspended sentence.

'This was a brazenly dishonest, calculated ploy to persuade me to suspend your sentence. It was an outrageous untruth, which suggests you lie whatever the circumstances or consequences. As recently as last week you said you were trying to retrieve the child's birth certificate from storage. How you thought you would not be found out is beyond me.'

The thefts occurred between June 2018 and June last year after McCarthy began working at Bury-based Paragon Meed as a recruitment consultant.

Craig MacGregor prosecuting said: 'She helped recruit staff for large companies to work in their warehouses. She would interview potential staff, make sure their paperwork was up to date and in order and ensure their timesheets were correctly inputted.

The judge told her the lies about the child were 'a brazenly dishonest, calculated ploy to persuade me to suspend your sentence'

McCarthy (pictured) admitted fraud by abuse of position but was given eight-month prison sentence suspended for two years - she has now been jailed after it was discovered she lied to the judge

'But In July 2019 Miss McCarthy was called before her bosses to explain why her work standards had dropped off. She never went to the meeting instead resigning from the company citing problems with drugs and with debt.

During inquiries into the thefts, it was revealed that McCarthy (pictured outside court) had previously been caught stealing money from two former employers and had served a prison stretch

'An audit was then carried out after she left and it was found that two former employees were having timesheets submitted and monies were being paid into Miss McCarthy's accounts.

The court heard 20 fraudulent transactions were carried out netting McCarthy £7,710.29 via the falsified time sheet method. She was interviewed by police in February this year and and confessed: 'it was me'.

Mr MacGregor added: 'She said it was a former partner who pushed her into doing this. There was a threat that if she did not do it he would tell her employees about her past. She said she gave some of the money to her now ex-partner spending the rest on drugs and drink.

'She said she resigned as she wanted to keep her unblemished CV and, at the time of interview, was working again in a recruitment consultancy.

'In fact, it appears she never told the company about her previous conviction and has told her new employers about her convictions either. She is a persistent fraudster.'

McCarthy had been previously been convicted of stealing from an employer in Wellingborough, Northants in 2011 for which she was given a suspended sentence. 

She jailed for 12 weeks in 2017 after stealing £4,800 from Belvior Sales and Lettings agency in West Derby where she was working as an estate agent.

The former office manager missed numerous court hearings citing 'anxiety' and COVID-19 and only revealed the 'existence' of the child last November to her lawyers on the day of her sentencing.

McCarthy (pictured) had missed numerous court hearings citing 'anxiety' and Covid-19

McCarthy wept again as the judge told her: 'Before I sentenced you in November I was told you were a single mother, and you said you had not disclosed this to anyone because you had been suffering from post-natal depression. I told you I would take you at your word as I could not imagine anyone in your position could be quite so brazenly dishonest.' 

In mitigation her lawyer Thomas McKail said: 'She is in a new relationship with her current partner who is a business owner who himself has a young family.

'She tells me rather emotionally today that, having found herself in a family unit, she panicked and advanced information that was not true. She apologises to the you for that. She is genuinely remorseful and feels genuine regret.

'She is completely ashamed and has had to tell her partner about the case. She has learnt her lesson and tells me this will never happen again.

'She has a history of drug misuse which stems from an previous abusive relationship. She has combatted those demons in her life and tried to move forward. She is worried that during her time in custody she will lose all of that, but recognises she has only herself to blame and that the court will be unable to consider a suspended sentence.' 

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