A family who have been running a garden centre for 60 years have been left “devastated” after their trusted office manager took more than £30,000.
Ian McDonald, director of Abergavenny Garden Centre in Llanfoist, said Zena Price betrayed his trust and her offending had a direct impact on the small family-run business.
In a victim impact statement read out at Cardiff Crown Court, he said: “I feel personally devastated as I had full confidence and trust in her.”
The court heard 37-year-old Price conned her employers out of £32,021.92 over a three-year period.
Nuhu Gobir, prosecuting, said she was employed in April 2014 as an office manager, responsible for day-to-day transactions.
The court heard she was the “financial mind” of the company responsible for payroll, payments to suppliers, and setting up electronic financial systems.
Prosecutors said Price set up false payees, created fake invoices, and paid herself double wages.
Mr Gobir told the court she set up payee accounts with almost duplicate names of suppliers and transferred funds from the garden centre’s account into her own personal account.
Her fraud was discovered when she was off work due to illness in September 2017 and Mr McDonald took over the financial running of the company.
There was an investigation and Price was interviewed by the police a month later.
She told officers she started taking money because she was £2,000 in debt from catalogue shopping but then carried on when she thought she could get away with it.
In his statement Ms McDonald described her as a “trusted member of staff” who was relied on to carry out her duties without much supervision.
He described Abergavenny Garden Centre as a small, family-run business that has been built up over 60 years. The business, in Church Lane, was founded in 1957.
Mr McDonald said: “She was part of our work family. I felt I had a good working relationship with her but her actions have betrayed the trust of everyone at the garden centre.”
He described her offending as “extremely callous and heartless”.
The director added they were planning to expand the company this year but are no longer in a financial position to take it forward as quickly as they would have liked.