CRIME: Gran jailed after embezzling £1.5 million  to fund luxury lifestyle

Coleen Muirhead who embezzled £1.5 million from her employers jailed for 40 months.

By Democrat reporter

Scotland is by the day beginning to look more like a Banana Republic given the number of graft and corruption cases going through the courts.

A grandmother who embezzled more than £1.5 million from her employer’s business was jailed for 40 months this week.

Coleen Muirhead, 55, indulged in expensive holidays and bought cars and caravans after stealing the money over a six year period.

Lord Fairley told Muirhead, today, Thursday, September 28, that having regard to the scale of the crime and the massive breach of trust only a prison sentence was appropriate.

The judge told her she would have faced a five year jail term but it would be modified to three years and four months imprisonment following her guilty plea. The judge said he had noted childhood trauma experienced by the first offender and mentioned in a background report prepared on her.

She earlier admitted embezzling £1,524,192.37 while employed at Panda Rosa Metals, Canal Road, Aberdeen between June 2015 and October 2021. As Muirhead’s crime was uncovered she wrote to a colleague and said: “Police have just raided! So I will need a visitor in jail! Please don’t think the worst of me.”

The gran pled guilty at Edinburgh High Court.
The gran pleaded guilty at the High Court in Edinburgh.

When the colleague expressed confusion Muirhead responded: “Don’t be I have taken the money am so sorry.”

Muirhead, a mother of four and grandmother to seven, admitted to police after her arrest that she was responsible for creating false accounts and stealing the money from the firm.

Defence solicitor advocate Kris Gilmartin said: “On the face of it it is difficult to fathom why the offence was committed. She was previously a law abiding citizen.”

But Mr Gilmartin said the social work report prepared on her set out “significant childhood trauma” and difficulties in her upbringing.

“She had used alcohol and gambling as a coping mechanism,” he told the court.

He said that following the death of her father her drinking and gambling increased as did her offending.

Mr Gilmartin said: “This offending behaviour started off as a small matter and escalated quickly.”

He said: “The report makes clear she is remorseful and she regrets the offending. She acknowledges she has brought shame to her family.”

He said she sought to apologise to the McAllister family, who own and operate the business, who gave her employment in their firm.

Colleen used the money to fund holidays

Mr Gilmartin said: “She is fearful of custody, but accepts she committed the offence and requires to be punished.”

The court heard that the metal recycling firm ran two sites in Aberdeen and Muirhead worked with the firm as an administrative assistant since July 2014.

Prosecutor David Dickson said scrap metal was brought to the sites by firms and individuals and weighed. A ticket was produced which was sent to staff who provided an advice note of materials, weight and price. Sellers then sent an invoice for payment.

“The accused also told her that she had paid for her son’s wedding, had purchased static caravans and had set up ISAs for her grandchildren,” said the advocate depute.

Her embezzlement came to light after a senior partner in the firm reviewed records and concluded that something was not right. She began looking for information for ‘G Anderson’ who appeared to be a significant customer but turned out to be an invention of Muirhead.

Colleen Muirhead 

Police were contacted and a systematic search of her home was carried out.  Mr Dickson said: “Documents in relation to credit cards, financial letters relating to the purchase of motor cars and motorcycles, documentation relating to ISAs for family members, £2312 in cash, £3300 in gift vouchers and documentation in relation to the purchase of two static caravans to the value of £78,077 were recovered.”  The Crown has brought a recovery of the proceeds of crime action again st Muirhead and a first hearing in the case is due to take place in January next year.

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