Two Scarborough women jailed after defrauding vulnerable Whitby caravan-site boss of thousands

Farrar, left, and Johnson
Farrar, left, and Johnson

Two Scarborough women have been jailed after defrauding a vulnerable Whitby businesswoman out of thousands of pounds.

Elizabeth Johnson (also known as Hill), 67, of West Square, Scarborough, and Machele (Shelly) Caroline Farrar, 60, of Manor Road, Scarborough, were jailed at York Crown Court today (Friday) after both being found guilty of two counts (two each) of fraud by abuse of position, at an earlier hearing.

Johnson was jailed for four years and Farrar was jailed for three years and six months.

The victim in this case, Fiona Rhodes, 54, sadly died a short time after the investigation began.

Fiona was running a caravan site in Whitby with a turnover of around half a million pounds. For personal reasons, she struggled to cope with the management and financial side of her business and in 2013 was contacted out of the blue by Elizabeth Johnson who offered to help reduce the business’ utility bills - which she did. She offered her services for “free” and also helped generally around the caravan site.

Within two years Johnson had introduced her friend, Machele (Shelly) Farrar, who offered to help Fiona with the payroll and accounting side of the business.

Neither of them had any formal qualifications in the work they were offering.

In 2015 the site manager became concerned after noticing large sums of money were being taken from the business account, leaving insufficient funds to pay bills. He reported his concerns to Fiona and her accountant.

Following an analysis of the bank accounts by the accountant, it became clear that a significant amount of money had been taken from Fiona’s business account that was unaccounted for.

A sum of £256,000 was transferred from the business account into Farrar’s own bank account and Johnson banked cheques to the value of £65,951. While some of it was used to pay staff wages and company bills, it was established that Farrar stole £51,548 and laundered £84,131, and that Johnson stole £150,062.

Both denied the allegations with Farrar claiming she only took what she was entitled to and was guided by Johnson. Johnson claimed she took the money for services rendered, but admitted she sometimes took more than she was entitled to and gave herself extra in the form of a bonus.

Although both submitted extortionate invoices for their services that did not reflect the work carried out, a significant proportion of the money taken from the business remains unaccounted for.