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Victim of designer label-loving Bridgnorth fraudster speaks out

By Deborah Hardiman | Bridgnorth | Crime | Published:

A victim of a fraudster from Bridgnorth who stole hundreds of thousands of pounds from companies to finance her love of designer coats and bags has spoken for the first time of the devastation caused by her crimes.

Julie Sexton-Blythe was jailed for a total of five years for frauds she carried out at Severn Centre, in Highley, and at Birmingham firm Reliable Stamping between 2013 and 2016.

The story behind the accountant's criminal actions is being aired on the BBC One documentary show Ill Gotten Gains which looks at the workings of legislation to recoup proceeds of crime when crooks are brought to justice.

When her scam at at the Hockley company Reliable Stamping was uncovered by West Midlands Police, Sexton-Blythe claimed she needed the feel-good spending fix to help deal with losing a loved one in a car crash five years earlier.

The detective who led the investigation described her activity as a "simple fraud with devastating consequences".

Her employers raised the alarm after a series of payments to two particular suppliers had all but drained company reserves and their life savings.

They had offered her job on the recommendation of a mutual friend because she was looking for work and the firm needed an accountant.

Sexton-Blythe, 52, joined the business in June 2014 but within six months had used her position to create two bogus payees – closely resembling the names of genuine suppliers – that funnelled £311,000 into her own NatWest account nicknamed 'Aurbus'.

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Search warrants at her home at Bridgnorth's Severn Valley Caravan Park and a beauty salon in Bridgnorth High Street, which she bought that summer, soon uncovered a hoard of designer clothes, including fur coats, and accessories like handbags, purses, jewellery and belts.

She went on to admit theft by employee at Birmingham Crown Court and was jailed for 40 months for that matter.

Speaking on the BBC programme, her former boss Ray explains how he had built up the business from scratch 50 years ago only for its future to be put at risk by Sexton-Blythe's actions.

"I started doing this in 1968. It is my life. I don't know how to do anything else. We have had some good times. It comes as a bit of a shock when you get defrauded like that, it's a horrible feeling," he said.

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"I was afraid that we would have to close down. I didn't know if all these people would be put on the dole. It's 15 families relying on us for a job.

"It created problems at home, not arguments just silence. They seemed to lose trust in me," he added.

Last year Sexton-Blythe also admitted theft and fraud totalling more than £73,508 from the Severn Centre, a non-profit leisure centre, in Bridgnorth Road, where she worked as an accounts technician. She was jailed for two years for that matter.

Show presenters Angellica Bell and Rav Wilding also explain how the Proceeds of Crime Act is being used in an attempt to recover cash and assets including her Tiffany ring collection in a bid get back some of the missing money for her victims.

This episode is available to view on BBC iPlayer for four weeks.

Deborah Hardiman

By Deborah Hardiman
@Deborahh_Star

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based out of the head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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