A former dinner lady who stole £89,000 by fiddling the books at the primary school where she worked for 10 years has been jailed.
Margaret Bailey, 51, siphoned tens of thousands from school accounts over a six year period in order to fund a global property empire.
She used the cash, which had been set aside for school trips, meals and Christmas parties, to put deposits on houses in the US and Bulgaria, as well as several UK properties.
Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard she started stealing cash in 2005 after she was promoted from dinner lady to office support manager at Endon Hall Primary School in Endon, Staffs.
Bailey was jailed to two-and-a-half years after she pleaded guilty to four charges of theft, two of fraud and one of false accounting on Monday.
Jailing Bailey, Judge Granville Styler told her: “The consequences of your dishonesty have been devastating for you.
“You’ve lost your job and family, and suffered humiliation in the community.
“But that humiliation is richly deserved.”
Bailey worked at the tiny village school for ten years but used her position to access various accounts including PTA cash and money belonging to Staffordshire County Council.
She wrote out cheques to herself and members of her family before moving money around the accounts to cover her tracks.
Bailey was arrested last December after education chiefs spotted irregularities in the accounts.
The court heard Bailey, from Brown Edge, Staffs., stole between £63,000 and £89,000 – although audits have been unable to determine the exact figure.
Fiona Cortese, prosecuting, said: “She said that everything was true and she was glad that it was all out in the open as it had been making her ill.
“She said she had bills to pay at home and it had just snowballed.”
In an open letter to the court, Bailey whined about her crimes causing her to “lose everything.”
She wrote: “I have lost everything I love.
“I have not spoken to my children in months.
“I don’t ask the court or my family to forgive me because I do not forgive myself.
“I will live with the pain and terrible feeling of loss until the day I die.”
Jason Holt, defending, said Bailey had become estranged from her family as a result of her actions.
He said: “Her children don’t want to know her. She’s lost her husband.
“They are separated and planning to divorce.
“She is left at 51 with no-one and has only herself to blame.”
Headteacher Vicki Lewis condemned Bailey.
She said: “Margaret was well-liked and respected by everyone at Endon Hall.
“The whole school has been absolutely shattered by this betrayal of trust.
“During the 10 years that she worked here, Margaret was known as the ‘life and soul’ of the school, often giving up her own time to support fund-raising events and never taking a day off work.
“We now know she was systematically stealing sums of money, and meticulously covering her tracks, by switching money around so the accounts always appeared in order.
“Margaret not only abused her position of trust as an employee, but has also ruthlessly deprived pupils of the money raised by hard-working parents.”
Bailey was nominated as an ‘Adult School Star’ in local community awards in 2009, at the height of her scam.