A WOMAN whose parents won the lottery stole more than £22,000 from the Dewsbury children’s nursery where she worked.
Samantha Crossland was told to pay back money taken from Child’s Play on Thornhill Road before a court sentencing hearing due today (Friday).
The 30-year-old, of The Paddock, Mirfield, was told at Leeds Crown Court that failure to do so could result in a jail term.
Crossland had earlier admitted theft and offered to pay the cash back in instalments.
Recorder Ray Singh said repayment would be better sooner, and adjourned the case to allow a re-think.
Crossland came back with an improved offer and Mr Singh said “all bets are off” regarding a jail term if payment was not made as promised.
The defendant’s parents, Susan, 51, and Michael, 46, who won £1.2m on the lottery in 2008, were in court and wept as they heard that Child’s Play, founded in 2001 by Susan’s friend Lynda Quigley, was left close to financial ruin.
The court was told Crossland stole £22,642 in amounts ranging from £552 to £5,106.
It involved stealing tuition money paid by parents which was kept in a locked box that only Mrs Quigley and Crossland had access to.
Charles Blatchford, prosecuting, said Crossland had been promoted to nursery manager.
In 2013, Mrs Quigley went into hospital for surgery and Crossland was left in charge of the finances.
Parents paid fees weekly or monthly by direct debit, vouchers or with cash in sealed envelopes kept in the locked box.
When Mrs Quigley returned to work in early 2014, a discrepancy was found in the accounts.
It related to one particular child and the parents were contacted, only for them to state they had already paid.
Crossland later gave Mrs Quigley an envelope which she claimed to have just found in the box.
Mr Blanchford said: “The envelope had the name of the child and the week commencing written on.” But the hand-writing appeared to be the defendant’s – and when confronted about it, Crossland quit with two weeks’ notice.
A meeting was set up but Crossland failed to attend and never returned to the nursery.
Then an audit going back to January 2013 showed a shortfall of £22,642, involving a total of six children.
Crossland was contacted and said she would resolve matters when she came back from holiday.
Mrs Quigley went to see Susan Crossland in the hope of finding a resolution but she was on a cruise and Mrs Quigley said in a statement: “I didn’t want to spoil her holiday.”
Police were called and they found text messages to Crossland’s sisters which they believed pointed to her guilt.
Crossland, who declined to comment in four police interviews, wrote she had “lost the f****** plot”.
Mrs Quigley, who sat in the public gallery with her husband Vince, said in her statement that Child’s Play lost business due to Crossland’s offending.
She wrote: “When I employed her as a manager she always appeared honest and trustworthy.
“I was left in a difficult position where parents were starting to ask where their nursery fees had gone and why they had to speak to the police.”
Mrs Quigley added her discoveries left her in “disbelief” and the experience had been an “emotional rollercoaster”.
Crossland was told a suspended jail term may be an option if the cash is paid back before her return to court today.