A SWINDLING council worker who nicked £128,000 earmarked for vulnerable children has been jailed for four years.
Stephanie Standen, 30, stole from council funds set aside to look after kids in foster care.
She told cops she took the money to fund her ‘extensive drug habit’.
Standen’s job granted her access to an electronic system from which she could fiddle payments to children’s foster care services.
In the year to September 2017 she created false records of fictitious foster service providers.
The fraudster attached legitimate bank details, in her name and the names of her associates, to the false records, allowing payments to be released to personal accounts.
Standen (above) pocketed £64,628.39 herself and split the rest among her associates. All the stolen funds were spent before her arrest in April 2018.
The defendant was arrested for fraud by abuse of position after an investigator for Croydon council identified anomalies in its electronic accounting system. She initially denied involvement.
Standen, of Selsdon, south London, was jailed by Croydon crown court after a guilty plea.
Her associates were identified and arrested between April and June 2018. They were convicted of money-laundering offences and sentenced at the same hearing.
George Sharpless, 25, received £11,000 from Standen and was given an 18-month suspended sentence.
Simeon Brown, 39, who received £9,528.83, was ordered to do 120 hours’ unpaid work and pay £2,000 compensation.
Hollie West, 31, received £11,884 and was given an 18-month suspended sentence.
Sonny Veerasawmy, 31, took £16,150 and landed an 18-month suspended sentence. He was also ordered to pay £6,000 compensation.
Steven Little, 33, received £4,150 from Standen. He was ordered to do 100 hours’ unpaid work and pay £4,150 compensation.
Det Ch Insp Simon Allen, who led the investigation, said: ‘The loss of more than £128,000 to Croydon council had a significant impact on services for children who required care from the fostering budget.
‘The loss meant that children who needed services were not able to be provided with them as there were insufficient funds in the budget following the fraud.
‘Standen was in a position of trust and nobody could have predicted how she would have abused this.’