Poker-addict accountant who stole £350,000 avoids prison

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A gambling-addicted accountant who stole £350,000 from her employers avoided jail after a judge admitted taking a risk by giving her a suspended sentence.

Natalie Saul, 37, from Wandsworth, south London, raided the accounts of the technology company Idio for more than a year and spent £250,000 of it playing online poker. She submitted more than 400 fake invoices to get hold of the money between March 2015 and December 2016.

Judge Catherine Newman, QC, sentencing Saul at Southwark crown court, said that the accountant was “not the general stuff of which the prison population is made”.

The judge said that the sentence fell outside the usual guidelines. “I’m taking a considerable risk that the Crown will think it lenient and appeal, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take,” she said.

Lucie Daniels, for the defence, had argued that Saul had been shaken by the loss of her grandmother in 2013 and had an unblemished record as a committed charity worker.

Saul was able to obtain the money from her employer by submitting the invoices herself, altering the details to pay cash into her own account then switching them again. Her actions were discovered by a new chief financial officer after Saul took maternity leave in December 2016.

She admitted one charge of fraud at Westminster magistrates’ court on July 13.

In her remarks, the judge said that she had considered giving Saul a sentence of three years and four months, before being persuaded that she was unfit for prison and despite the “considerable harm” she had caused her employer.

“I’m prepared to take the wholly exceptional course of reducing your sentence and suspend it,” she said.

As she heard that she had avoided prison, Saul burst into tears.

She was given a two-year suspended sentence and a 250-hour community order for one charge of fraud by abuse of position. She was also ordered to pay £360 costs.

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