York & North Yorkshire

Fraudsters fleeced Whitby caravan park woman out of cash

Elizabeth Johnson (l) and Machele Farrar Image copyright North Yorkshire Police
Image caption Elizabeth Johnson (l) and Machele Farrar took thousands of pounds from a businesswoman running a caravan park in Whitby

Two women who fleeced a "vulnerable" businesswoman out of more than £250,000 while claiming to help with the running of her caravan site have been jailed.

Elizabeth Johnson and Machele Farrar, both of Scarborough, took cash from Fiona Rhodes, who managed the site in Whitby, North Yorkshire.

Both had no accounting or finance qualifications, York Crown Court heard.

On Friday, Johnson, 67, was sentenced to four years, with Farrar jailed for three years and six months.

Ms Rhodes, 54, died a short time after the police investigation started, North Yorkshire Police said.

The court heard that her business had a turnover of around £500,000, but she struggled to cope with the financial side due to personal reasons.

In 2013, she was offered help by Johnson, of West Square, who successfully reduced the business' utility bills and helped around the caravan site.

Johnson later introduced Ms Rhodes to Farrar, 60, of Manor Road, who offered to help with the payroll and accounting of the business.

In 2015, the site manager became concerned that large sums of money were being taken from the business account, leaving insufficient funds to pay bills.

The court heard £256,000 was transferred from the business account into Farrar's account and Johnson banked cheques to the value of £65,000.

While some of it was used to pay staff wages and company bills, it was established that Johnson stole £150,000, with Farrar stealing £50,000 and laundering £84,000.

Both women denied the fraud allegations, but the court heard they submitted "extortionate invoices" for their services that did not reflect the work they carried out.

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