The money, intended for Bromford Housing Group, was transferred to Michaela Hutchings, 23, on April 24 last year after a clerical error. Within hours, she went on a spree that saw her spend £9,000 on designer clothes, shoes, jeans, sunglasses and other luxuries in a matter of hours and she gave her mother £1,000 in cash before she was caught by police following the mistake.
On Monday, Miss Hutchings admitted dishonesty and retaining a wrongly credited bank transfer and received a 12-month community order, including 150 hours of unpaid work.
Recorder Derek Desmond said: “On 24 April last year, a little over £52,000 was put in to your account in error. That had nothing to do with you. You didn’t cause that error, but you decided to keep it, knowing, after a short while it was wrong and you failed to take reasonable steps to cancel it.
“I have no doubt you were influenced by your partner, he wanted to spend the money. You went on a spending spree and between you, you spent £9,000. This man who spurred you on is no longer in your life – no doubt your family will be glad about that.”
Lichfield District Council managed to stop a further £44,500 being transferred into Hutchings’ account and desperately tried to trace her to explain the error.
When she was caught officers discovered she had transferred £40,000 into an investment account after taking advice from her bank who were unaware of the mistake. That account is now frozen under a restraining order and Hutchings will face an investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover all the money.
Cllr Christopher Spruce, of Lichfield District Council, said after the hearing, “Last April, due to a contractor’s clerical error, £52,000 was transferred to a benefits claimant, rather than to one of our housing association partners. We are working with the police to recover the wrongly transferred funds.”