Carole Farr has been jailed for six years today after admitting fraud
A secretary faked qualifications to become financial director of a British Airways staff club before leaving it completely penniless after embezzling more than £1 million.
Carole Farr has today been jailed for six years after she admitted plundering BA Clubs and using the money to pay for flights, lavish holidays and hotel stays.
The 52-year-old spent £500,000 on the company credit card to buy 51 flights totalling £64,000 – including two Business Class return trips to Australia – and a birthday party at a hotel for 60 guests.
She also lost £500,000 to a Nigerian boyfriend she met online who borrowed the money to leave Africa, but never repaid her.
Farr spent almost £25,000 on 270 shopping transactions between 2012 and 2017 and £35,000 on 56 stays at hotels including the Ritz.
She also had 21 luxury holidays at the company’s expense and paid for a wake for her sister in 2015 costing more than £7,000.
Prosecutor John Ojakovoh told Reading Crown Court Farr joined BA clubs in 2012 as a secretary and swiftly became Chief Executive Financial Director with her extensive accountancy qualifications, which proved to be fake.
As Chief Executive her responsibilities were to manage the other eight employees and she had the overall control of company finances.
He said BA had not looked into her record, which would have revealed she was a convicted fraudster.
Farr joined BA clubs in 2012 as a secretary and swiftly became Chief Executive Financial Director with her extensive accountancy qualifications, which proved to be fake
Farr spent almost £25,000 on 270 shopping transactions between 2012 and 2017 and £35,000 on 56 stays at hotels including the Ritz (pictured)
Farr stole from BA organisations including the prestigious Concorde Club but covered her theft by complaining that trustees were not contributing enough money.
BA Clubs has been in operation since the Second World War and provides activities including gym, ballroom dancing, darts and bowls for 10,000 staff members both present and retired.
It had charitable status and had received a generous grant from British Airways.
But it was making a loss in 2017 and Farr told members harsh ‘cost-cutting’ measures would need to be made, including moving to a new office away from Heathrow.
She also cancelled the annual fireworks display.
Farr had instructed her colleague Michaela Orme via text message out of hours, to arrange payments. Ms Orme told the court she thought the payments were ‘odd’ but felt bullied by Farr and did not want to question her superior.
Ms Orme was made redundant in 2018 but BA clubs could not pay her redundancy because there was no money left in the account.
Farr resigned in 2017 after phoning her colleague Alison Hartigan from Barbados and tearfully admitting giving money to her Nigerian boyfriend.
The prosecutor said: ‘Her reasoning for taking the money was to pay the Nigerian authorities to help get her boyfriend, Jacob Adele, out of the country.
‘The defendant said she had sent money from her personal account as well as money from the company expecting payment back from Jacob totalling £1m after interest was added.’
In February 2018, Detective constable Luke Simms went to Farr’s home in Maidenhead, Berkshire, after reports she had been made the victim of a scam.
Farr ‘played the victim’ as she told Det Con Simms that she had sent £65,000 of her own money to Jacob in Nigeria.
Mr Ojakovoh said: ‘She said the company had told her not to report it. Arrangements were made for her to attend a voluntary interview in the presence of a solicitor. She reported meeting Jacob Adele in May 2017.
Accountant Lisa Cowap was brought to investigate and identified 1,464 personal transactions starting just a month after Farr joined the company, going back more than five years.
Ms Cowap said Farr had the letters ‘ICMA’ in her email title claiming she was an accountant, and forged the director’s signature in a letter to Companies House.
Farr was found to have defrauded BA clubs out of £1,040,000 over a period of five years.
Farr admitted plundering BA Clubs and using the money to pay for flights, lavish holidays and hotel stays
The 52-year-old resigned in 2017 after phoning a colleague from Barbados (pictured) and tearfully admitting giving money to her Nigerian boyfriend
When interviewed in October 2018, Farr declined to comment on the fraudulent signature and details about the money taken from the company.
Concluding the prosecution’s case, Mr Ojakovoh revealed Farr’s relevant two previous convictions for six offences.
He said: ‘Between November 2008 and January 2009 she abused her position of trust as a manager, writing company cheques in her partner’s name of just under £10,000 which were cashed. She received a community order for this.
‘In 1984 she was given a conditional discharge after admitting theft by an employee with 16 offences taken into consideration.’
Farr admitted three counts of fraud by false representation.
As he jailed her, Judge Pau Dugdale said: ‘You used money entrusted to you, on you and your own family and not just for surviving.
‘It went on a good life. You used money from BA Clubs to fund the high life.
‘BA Clubs is a social club for staff and family with 10,000 members and has been running since World War II. The trustees are not wealthy but ordinary working people who have contributed to the club so they could have a social life around work life.
‘During your time you sucked it of virtually every penny it had. You left it in a position it could no longer operate financially as a company.
‘It had to move premises, it could no longer afford the services to customers.
‘There may well be tragic circumstances with your sister but this does not qualify the way you spent. You have two previous convictions of similar fraud.’
Defence counsel Francesca Anderson said Farr had been struggling emotionally and financially in the five years she had been spending the money.
She said: ‘Her sister Sandra was diagnosed with cancer and given two years left to live and she wanted to do something positive with the short time they had together. She sadly lost all sense in using the company credit card.’
Farr was sentenced to six years in jail but was not ordered to pay any costs because she had previously been declared bankrupt.