10:31pm Friday 13th July 2007
By Wendy Barlow
A COMPANY boss who stole more than £600,000 has been jailed for three years after being shopped by her husband.
Burnley Crown Court was told that three-times married Lorna Farenden, 34, spent the money on "flash living", buying a £500,000 house in Colne, exotic foreign holidays and £40,000 on two weddings.
She stole the cash from Kelbrook-based Entre Prises (UK) Limited, which makes climbing walls, ice walls and artificial caves, over five years.
Farenden, formerly of Halifax Road, Nelson, took much of the cash by putting former employees on the payroll with her bank details so she received the money.
Auditors were called in after the firm, which was meant to report a profit, looked set to make significant loss.
Mum-of-four Farenden panicked, the court heard, and told bosses her father had died in Spain. She was given time off to go and be the executor of his will.
But in reality Farenden had fled to Lebanon in the Middle East with £100,000 cash in a bag.
Her theft was uncovered when her husband told bosses of the company that his wife had stolen £500,000.
And Farenden was forced to return to the UK and give herself up when a conflict erupted with Israel erupted in Lebanon, the court was told.
After the hearing Colin Boothroyd, the managing director of Entre Prises, hit out a Farenden's punishment, saying it was just a "slap on the wrist".
Mr Boothroyd said Farenden's conduct had led to redundancies including the loss of two directors, but that "thankfully" the firm was now just profitable again for the first time in years.
He said: "I think it's just a horror show. It seems astonishing that somebody can steal £600,000 from any company and get such a low sentence. The signals it is sending out are phenomenally bad."
The defendant had earlier admitted stealing £597,250.70p between February 13, 2001 and May 10, 2006 from Entre Prises and £27,662.72p between October 5, 2004 and January 15, 2005 from parent company Jymnova Limited. She had no previous convictions.
The court was described by her defence as a "workaholic" who had returned to Entre Prises just 18 hours after giving birth, but was now bankrupt and homeless.
David Macro, prosecuting, said Farenden started working with Entre Prises as financial controller in January 2000.
In 2002 the company restructured, she became finance and operations manager and at that time she set up her own business, a children's play area with her then husband Christopher Norris and three other business partners.
In 2003 Entre Prises French parent company ABEO, bought Jymnova in Telford and Farenden was sent to advise and help.
In April last year the defendant was appointed the £40,000 managing director of Entre Prises and in May last year the company auditors attended.
The prosecutor said Farenden returned to England in June last year, went to Burnley police station and was arrested and interviewed.
When questioned she claimed she initially started taking the cash for financial troubles, but things had "snowballed" and got out of hand.
She told officers she had bought family holidays to Cyprus and Cuba and had bought a house, The Glen in Colne.
Mr Macro said: "The defendant had been made bankrupt. What is left of her assets is being dealt with by the Official Receiver and will be distributed between Entre Prises and other creditors but there is not much left."
Sentencing, Judge Jonathan Woolman, told her: "You were in a position of trust.
"You were in many ways responsible for the financial health of that company. As a result of your thefts from that company, quite clearly although the company has not been brought to its knees, the thefts have had a very substantial effect on it."
Mark Stuart, defending Farenden, said that Entre Prises grew considerably during the time she was there in no small part due to her.
He said: "At work she was undoubtedly gifted. At home she was effectively an emotional cripple and probably used work as a means of hiding from what can only be described as an intensely disastrous series of personal relationships.
"To prison she must go. She is going to come out with no money, no home, probably, fortunately no relationship and certainly initially without the children. A desperate situation."
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