The former owner of an Aberdeenshire hotel last night said she had been robbed of justice after a woman who defrauded her out of almost £5,000 walked free from court.
Michelle Cobban betrayed her friend and employer over the course of a month by fraudulently refunding thousands of pounds on to her own debit card.
She then spent the cash on shopping online and taking her new boyfriend on a luxury trip to Dublin.
Last night Rebecca Cruickshank, owner of the Huntly Hotel at the time, said she was devastated by what the 28-year-old had done to her and her staff.
She said she had hoped Cobban would be jailed and that sentencing her to community service sent out the message that “crime pays”.
The 45-year-old, who has since sold the business she owned with her husband Gordon, said: “In the last three weeks I have heard about various businesses who have been ripped off by their staff.
“Every single one of these criminals have received community service and this does not represent justice.
“Of course people are going to take the money if it is there for the taking, instead of doing the right thing, if that is all the punishment they are going to get.”
Cobban, of 8 Sycamore Place, Huntly, was ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work in the community within nine months when she appeared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court yesterday. She was also placed under supervision for a year after she previously admitted fraudulently obtaining a total of £4,600.
Sentencing her, Sheriff Kenneth Stewart said she had been “completely selfish” when she used the hotel’s card machine to make false refunds on seven occasions between April 20 and May 15, 2013.
Mrs Cruickshank said she was still considering civil action again the single mum of two.
She added: “I could actually cry.
“What she did didn’t just affect us, it affected everyone. She basically stole two weeks payroll and I had to come up with the cash to pay the rest of my staff.
“There were also so many times I gave her an advance on her wages when she was stuck for money. I just expected her to treat us the way we treated her. Even if she paid me back 50p every day for the rest of her life and give us an apology that would be something.”
Cobban refused to comment as she left court yesterday.