Trusted Halifax department store employee stole nearly £14,000

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A 36-year-old woman who was promoted from waitress to trusted fashion buyer at Harvey’s department store in Halifax has been given a suspended prison sentence for stealing almost £14,000 over a decade.

A court heard how Kathleen Baldacchino had started work in the cafe at the Harveys store in Rawson Street, Halifax, in 1996, but her talent was spotted and she was promoted to sales assistant and eventually became a fashion buyer within the store.

Prosecutor Mehrban Nassiri said in 2013 an internal investigation into Baldacchino’s working practices revealed anomalies relating to cash refunds to customers and further inquiries revealed more than 300 bogus refunds between 2002 and 2012.

Mr Nassiri said in total Baldacchino, of Quarry Bank Mill, Stoney Lane, Huddersfield, stole just over £13,800, but following her arrest she denied responsibility and a hand-writing expert had to analyse the documentation.

Baldacchino, who resigned from her post after being suspended in January last year, had been due to stand trial on the theft charge later this month, but at a hearing of her case in May she changed her plea to guilty.

Barrister Rachel Faux, for Baldacchino said she was utterly ashamed of her dishonesty.

Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said the defendant had been highly trusted by the management at the prestigious store, but she saw how the system worked and abused it relentlessly.

The judge referred to Baldacchino’s “mental health issues” and “appalling debt problems”, but he said her vulnerability meant she would be destroyed if she was sent to prison.

Judge Durham Hall described the case as a tragedy all round and decided that Baldacchino’s nine-month prison term could be suspended for a year.

She will also have to do 200 hours unpaid work for the community.

Mr Nassiri did set out a timetable for a further hearing later this year under the Proceeds of Crime Act, but Miss Faux indicated that in the end her client might not have any recoverable assets which could be used to compensate the store.