Receptionist stole to save family from meltdown

Maxine Wilson outside court. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Maxine Wilson outside court. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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A RECEPTIONIST who stole thousands of pounds from her employers told a court the theft was a desperate bid to save her family from financial meltdown.

With her father struck down with a serious illness before losing his job, Maxine Wilson said her family were forced out of their home as their debts mounted up.

In a last-ditch bid to help, the 25-year-old – described as a diligent student at school who left with Standard Grade and Higher exam passes and a “reasonably rosy” future – turned to crime, stealing more than £8000 from her employer.

It was a decision which left her facing the “abject terror” of prison while trying to prevent her ailing parents from finding out what her attempt to help had cost her.

The fraud was uncovered in June, with Wilson losing her job at the Zen Lifestyle Clinic, in Teviot Place, before being reported to police.

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday, she was told to carry out 100 hours of community service and pay back the cash, £5089 of which she had already repaid.

Wilson, who lives in Cramond Park, left school at 18, and got a job, but also had to take out a loan to assist her parents as their problems grew, the court heard.

Later, her predicament deepened as she was twice made redundant in a single year and found herself in financial trouble.

As her own debt problems spiralled, Ms Wilson found a new job at the clinic, working as a receptionist and cashier.

With ready access to money in her role, she started stealing cash from her employer.

After the fraud was uncovered, she faced a disciplinary hearing at the clinic, where she admitted taking the money to help her parents and was sacked.

Two weeks later she was asked to attend a police station where officers quizzed her over the theft. Once again, she fully admitted all the charges.

Facing a court appearance and a possible prison term, Ms Wilson began her attempts to repay the cash.

She managed to secure another job, but her previous bosses at the clinic alerted her new employers about the reasons for her dismissal.

Her situation becoming increasingly desperate, she was sacked from a job she had only just found.

Still trying to help her parents, while repaying the stolen funds, Ms Wilson landed another job at a university on a salary of £18,000 a year. She made the decision not to tell her parents about the court case, fearful of the impact it might have on them.

Appearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday with only her grandmother to support her, she faced sentencing on charges of embezzling £8422.

Ms Wilson had pleaded guilty to embezzlement before Sheriff Gordon Liddle at an earlier hearing. Sentence had been deferred for reports to be compiled about her character.

Her defence solicitor Roy Harley told the court that his client had repaid £5089 to her old employers.

Mr Harley said his client was willing to hand over the outstanding amount and urged Sheriff Liddle not to jail her.

He added: “She has an abject terror at the prospect of a custodial sentence. She took the money to assist her parents who were in serious financial difficulty.”

Sheriff Liddle sentenced her to 100 hours of community service. He also ordered her to repay the outstanding £3333 back to the company.

Outside court, Ms Wilson said the case was a “very personal matter” and declined to comment further.