A MUM stole £170,000 from her cancer-stricken boss to fund her slot machine addiction, a court heard.
Stephanie Graysmark was left in charge of the caravan park for three years after the owner, her grandmother-in-law, was diagnosed with cancer.
The 33-year-old admitted two counts of theft after plundering the site’s coffers to fund her gambling addiction to controversial fixed odds betting machines.
Graysmark destroyed the Kent caravan park’s finances to such an extent that 73-year-old owner Maureen Wharton had to sell the business she had built up for over the last four decades.
‘SLAVE TO GAMBLING’
Maidstone Crown Court heard how Graysmark is the sole carer for her two children and a judge said the youngsters did not deserve to lose their mother.
He said the mother had become a “slave to gambling” and that his decision not to jail her was an “exceptional course”.
Judge Philip St John-Stevens said: “What you did has had a catastrophic effect on the company.
“You deserve to go to prison but your children don’t deserve to lose their mother.”
You deserve to go to prison but your children don’t deserve to lose their mother
Judge Philip St John-Stevens
The court heard Graysmark started working at her husband’s family’s business in Leysdown, Kent, as a receptionist in 2010.
But in 2014, Mrs Wharton was diagnosed with cancer and the defendant was given control of her business and private bank accounts.
By 2017, Mrs Wharton discovered the phones had been cut off because bills hadn’t been paid at the Central Beach Caravan Park, and staff were owed wages.
Graysmark claimed it was an error but a finance report revealed £176,000 had been stolen.
She also later admitted paying a £1,000 PayPal bill from Mrs Wharton’s personal account.
The victim was later forced to sell the business to pay off her granddaughter-in-law’s debts.
Paul Douglass, defending, said Graysmark, of Crayford, Kent, became addicted to slot machines because of the stress of running the complex by herself.
He said Graysmark began stealing a little at a time and had planned to repay it when she had a substantial win.
Mr Douglass said: “She came to feel over-loaded with responsibility and the amount of work she had to do. She was working long hours.”
“She is disgusted with her behaviour but was helpless to change and became trapped by her addiction.
“She wasn’t living the high life, going on holidays, buying jewellery or expensive cars and she now feels remorse.”
She was gambling my money away while I was having chemotherapy treatment. I’m just absolutely disgusted
Victim Maureen Wharton, 73
An investigation has now been started by finance experts under the Proceeds of Crime Act to try to reclaim some of the missing money.
Speaking after the sentence Mrs Wharton said she would appeal if she could.
“I’m just completely and utterly gobsmacked.
“It took 42 years to build up the company and she gambled all the money and the company is now in liquidation.
“She was gambling my money away while I was having chemotherapy treatment.
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“I’m just absolutely disgusted about what’s happened.
“What hurt me most was I lost my company, staff lost their jobs and some staff lost their homes.”
Graysmark was handed a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years, and has been ordered to carry out unpaid work.
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