A Halifax couple who enjoyed a millionaire lifestyle using money stolen from a Ripponden-based laundry company have been jailed after a judge described the offending as “an orgy of greed and self-indulgence”.
Over a seven-year period accounts department worker Julie Nickerson stole £2.3 million from her employers JLA Limited and used the money to pay for luxury holidays, expensive cars and improvements to the £500,000 house she bought with her ex-newsagent husband Anthony.
Bradford Crown Court heard today (Friday) how the couple’s extravagant spending included nearly £200,000 on foreign holidays and cruises, more than £10,000 on motorsport events at Silverstone and just under £17,000 on film memorabilia.
Prosecutor Nicholas Askins said in January last year private investigators hired by JLA’s solicitors posed as prospective buyers for Wainstalls House, which is set in five acres of land, when it was put on the market after Julie Nickerson was made redundant by the firm.
“The visit was covertly video-recorded,” said Mr Askins.
“The luxurious lifestyle Anthony and Julie Nickerson had been leading is obvious from the video.”
Mr Askins said the couple had installed a hot spring and exercise pool at the property costing £5,386.
In December last year 55-year-old Julie Nickerson pleaded guilty to stealing the huge sum of money between 2005 and her departure from JLA in December 2012.
The court heard that the Nickerson household was “awash with cash” even though her salary was only between £18,000 and £20,000 a year.
Mr Askins told the court that Nickerson said her husband’s former newsagents and general store in Wade House Road, Shelf, was used to launder some of the illegal proceeds.
Last month 48-year-old Anthony Nickerson admitted transferring and concealing just under £1 million of the stolen money.
Mr Askins said Julie Nickerson made false payment records on JLA’s computerised accounting system to cover up the missing money and when Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs started to investigate the couple’s financial affairs in 2009 she falsely claimed that hundreds of thousands of pounds had been left to her by her dead mother.
The couple, who had been living at an address in West Royd Avenue, Halifax, held hands as Recorder Anthony Hawks jailed them both this lunchtime.
Julie Nickerson, who admitted offences of theft, fraud and money-laundering, was jailed for five years and husband was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for money laundering.
A psychologist’s report indicated that Julie Nickerson suffered from a complex development trauma relating to her childhood and her barrister Oliver Jarvis said she was a woman with very low self esteem.
He submitted that she had a misguided belief that she needed all the possessions to make those around her love her.
The court heard that Nickerson, who had started working for JLA in 1990, didn’t even know herself how much money she had stolen and Recorder Hawks said it was a source of astonishment to the court that her offending continued for as long as it did.
JLA is a leading supplier of commercial laundry equipment and Nickerson’s thefts came to light after she was made redundant in December 2012.
Mr Jarvis said his client started offending after some money had been left by mistake and she realised how easy it was to take it.
The judge told the couple, who married in 2004, that at the time they had a joint income of about £60,000 a year and were very comfortably off in a lot of people’s books.
But he said Julie Nickerson had relentlessly stolen from her employer and added: “What you did, in the judgement of this court, was simply to embark on an orgy of greed and self indulgence which only really came to an end when you were in fact made redundant from the company.”
Recorder Hawks said they had enjoyed a lavish lifestyle which included artworks, memorabilia, holidays which other people could only dream of, sports cars and corporate events.
After the case Detective Constable Ash Nuttall of the Calderdale Proceeds of Crime Act Team said: “The Nickersons thought they were living the high life but they were living on the money that had been stolen from others.
“They were constantly having to look over their shoulders waiting for the day justice caught up with them.
“That day has now come and they will have a long time in prison to consider the consequences of their actions.
“As well as spending time in prison we will seek to recoup the money stolen.”