AN online gambling addict who defrauded her husband’s plastering firm out of £77,000 has been jailed for 20 months.

Company director and mother of three, Pauline Leeming, was told by Judge Jonathan Rose: “You’ve lost a great deal from your offending; now you’ve lost your liberty.”

Leeming, 40, of Church Street, Cullingworth, pleaded guilty to a 16-month VAT fraud, between February, 2016, and June, 2017.

Prosecutor Camille Morland told Bradford Crown Court today that Leeming and her husband, Roy Leeming, were directors of Paul Smith Plasterers of Selby Road, Leeds.

Leeming produced and furnished 291 false invoices to obtain VAT repayments to fund her online gambling habit, Miss Morland said.

When an accountant uncovered the fraud, she resigned from the firm.

Miss Morland said that the company would have to repay the £77,000 to HM Revenues and Customs. There would be no Proceeds of Crime Act hearing against Leeming because there was no loss to the public purse.

Miss Lydia Pearce said in mitigation that Leeming was of previous good character and she had pleaded guilty at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates' Court.

“She is exceptionally aware of the risk of an immediate custodial sentence,” Miss Pearce said.

Leeming had a gambling addiction that spiralled out of control while she was living in an isolated area.

She was very remorseful and had sought help from a specialist counsellor.

Leeming no longer gambled except for the occasional lapse amounting to £10 or £20.

She had excluded herself from online betting sites and her family was keeping an eye on her bank account.

Leeming’s marriage had broken down and she no longer worked for the company.

As well as caring for her children, she looked after her poorly mother.

“She is genuinely terrified and willing to engage with anything that will help her to avoid an immediate prison sentence,” Miss Pearce said.

Leeming was assessed by the probation service as being at a low risk of reoffending, the court was told.

Judge Rose agreed that this would be her only jail sentence.

“She has never troubled the courts before and never will again,” he said.

But the offence was “a grave breach of trust”. Leeming was the director of a company owned by her husband.

Her gambling addiction began with small amounts that she took out personal loans to cover. But when the debts mounted up, she began “careful financial manipulation of the company’s accounts”.

Judge Rose said Leeming should have asked for help from family members or the many agencies there to assist with gambling addiction.