A LEIGH finance assistant who siphoned off more than half a million pounds from her employer in order to pay for lavish holidays and cosmetic surgery has been jailed for three years today, Thursday.

Charlotte Darwen, aged 26, of Ledgard Avenue, enjoyed a lifestyle way beyond her means after stealing the money from Action 365, based in Cheadle Hulme, between April 2007 and December 2013.

Her deceit included spending more than £5,000 on cosmetic procedures, foreign holidays and nearly £50,000 on a deposit for a new house.

She was jailed at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court today, Thursday, after pleading guilty to fraud by abuse of position of trust at an earlier hearing.

Det Con Andy Devonshire, from GMP’s Volume Fraud Team, said: “While many people have been tightening their belts just to make ends meet, Darwen fleeced her company to fund the kind of lifestyle she thought she was entitled to.

“She didn’t put in extra shifts or study for qualifications to pay for it - she just siphoned it off the very people who were paying her wages.”

Darwen worked in accounts at the motor claims management company and part of her role involved processing invoices for the finance director.

She used her position to make transfers from the company bank accounts to her own bank account, each time changing the payee reference to disguise the payments as legitimate payments to suppliers.

In total she made in excess of 300 separate payments to her own bank account, which totalled £508,120.38.

The offence was discovered in December, after the company conducted an audit, which uncovered discrepancies with the company accounts.

When confronted by her employers, Darwen admitted what she had done and claimed that she spent the money betting, as she had a gambling habit.

Det Con Andy Devonshire added: “She has blamed her amassing of a small fortune on a gambling addiction.

“While it is true she spent a considerable amount on gambling websites, her addiction was by no means restricted to games of chance. She was also clearly addicted to what you might call retail therapy.

“She is not only now facing a lengthy jail term, but, will hopefully be forced to hand back a chunk of what she stole.”