An “elaborate fraud” masterminded by a Wigtownshire conwoman eventually led to her downfall and saw her sent to prison for three years from the dock at Dumfries Sheriff on Wednesday.
Wanda Campbell, aged 43, of Shore Cottage, Auchenmalg, near Glenluce, was found guilty by a jury after a week-long trial in October of defrauding Haughs Garage in Castle Douglas of £110,000 between March 2012 and August 2013.
Sheriff Scott Pattison also ordered the accused to pay compensation to the Haughs of £100,000 within six months and the remainder within three years or face four more months in jail.
Campbell had been recommended to garage owner James Haugh to help with a tax investigation as, he had been told, she had worked previously with HMRC, and would have experience of tax matters.
She then induced members of the 126-year old family firm, which went into liquidation earlier this year, to pay her thousands of pounds into a bank account under her control which, she explained to them, was to keep the money safe and to use as a cash flow for the business.
The truth was Campbell spent the money as soon as it was transferred and the business never saw a penny of it again. Sheriff Pattison listened as her lawyer pleaded that his client would struggle with a prison sentence and had a disabled teenage son who needed his mother, and that Campbell herself had health issues.
He also added that there was no evidence to link the collapse of the garage business with the fraud.
But Sheriff Pattison said that only a term of imprisonment was appropriate for her crime, adding that it had led to the end of a historic business and the loss of people’s livelihoods.
Procurator Fiscal for Dumfries and Galloway Fraser Gibson said: “Wanda Campbell targeted her victims, gained their trust and then in a very elaborate fraud stole a huge amount of money from them.
“Fraudsters can be very convincing. There is no shame attached to becoming their victim and we would urge people to report such offences.”