A cashier at a Solihull-based firm of solicitors who stole £1.7 million over seven years to finance a luxurious lifestyle for herself and her husband has been jailed for five years.
Louise Martini, 36, of Solihull, who had worked for the firm in Shirley, Solihull, since she was 16, bought jewellery from Chanel, shares in a racehorse and the lease of a pub in the village which supposedly inspired Ambridge in The Archers.
The cashier, who was earning £24,000 at the time of her arrest, also spent thousands on luxury holidays, designer clothes and stays in country house hotels.
Martini had been recruited straight from school by law firm Williamson and Soden, which completely trusted her, Gloucester Crown Court heard.
She was responsible for managing petty cash, client bank accounts and expenses and was given increasing responsibility throughout the near 20 years she worked at the firm.
But behind the scenes, Martini was forging cheques, stealing money and lying to her employers to cover her tracks.
Between April 2002 and her dismissal in February last year Martini spent £11,000 on Chanel jewellery at Selfridges, more than £10,000 on Cartier jewellery, £9,500 at the designer online store Net-a-Porter, £3,000 at Harvey Nichols, and £500 in exclusive shoe shop Jimmy Choo.
She bought five cars, spending £56,000 on a Range Rover Sport V8 and £42,000 on an Audi A5 Quattro Coupe, and paid £3,300 for a trip to Las Vegas.
There were other expensive holidays to Venice, Lake Como in Italy and ski trips costing thousands of pounds, the court was told.
Martini bought the Crown Inn in Peopleton, Worcestershire, and later purchased the leasehold of The Bull's Head pub in Inkberrow, Worcestershire. She spent £13,000 on stays at Ettington Park, a four-star hotel in a Grade I listed building in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.
She also bought a house in leafy Solihull and a share of a racehorse, which cost £1,800 a month in stable fees alone, the court heard. "The spending just goes on and on, month after month, on a variety of credit cards," Mr Grieves-Smith said.
It was only when Martini went on holiday that irregularities were discovered and an internal investigation uncovered what she had been doing.
She was immediately suspended and, in February last year, sacked by the firm.
Martini, of Griffin Lane, Solihull, admitted at an earlier hearing charges of theft and money laundering. Charges of forgery were ordered to lie on file.