My greedy ‘daughter’ stole £ 8,000 from the kids club
A DEVASTED mum described how the young woman she considered “her own daughter” stole almost £ 8,000 from her.
Stella McCarthy was stunned after a model employee and close family friend, Alacia Bowker, defrauded the money, leaving the family business bankrupt.
The deception came to light on the eve of Alacia’s 21st birthday – and the cheeky thief used her co-workers’ birthday money – before she was arrested.
Mom of four, Stella, 55, says: “I’m heartbroken. I treated her like a girl, bought her presents and gave her money. I took her to the spa for a weekend. She was always present with us.
“Because of her, the kids’ club I ran had to close, 12 people lost their jobs and over 100 children were left without support.
“But in the end, it wasn’t just a financial decision. I no longer have the heart or the passion to do my job. Alacia took this from me.
Stella ran a children’s club in Bolton and employed Alacia Bowker as an apprentice in 2014.
Stella says: “Alacia was great and she was quickly promoted to player and senior player. She was very gentle with children, very popular and I often gave her our “Employee of the Month” award.
“She was so generous too; always buying me small gifts and flowers. Now I look back and realize that it was my money that she was spending.
“I bought her some nice Christmas and birthday presents and if she needed a loan, that was okay. She was especially friendly with my youngest daughter, Jasmine, and she became a member of the family. She ate with us most of the time in the evening.
My heart is broken. I treated her like a girl, bought her presents and gave her money. I took her to the spa for a weekend. She was always present with us.
In March 2019, Alacia was promoted to Deputy Headmistress and part of her job was to pay salaries and weekly rent to the school where the kids’ club was based.
Stella says: “Every week I sent Alacia the money she needed. There were several occasions when she told me that I had missed someone’s salary or that I had forgotten to include the rent. I actually thought I was going a little crazy. I sent him the extra money without questioning it.
That summer, Stella took Alacia for a luxury spa weekend, as a birthday present for her 21st birthday. When Alacia moved into a new apartment soon after, Stella paid for all of her appliances.
Stella says: “At that time, Alacia texted me to tell me that her father was really sick, that he had had a stroke and that he was in the hospital. I told her to take as long as she needed. From that point on, she was working and not working anymore, because she spent so much time with her father, which I understood perfectly.
“I had met his father, he was a lovely man and I felt sorry for the whole family. Alacia was in such a state that she burst into tears at the kids club, in front of all the parents.
In early December 2019, Alacia confessed that she was in debt with her new apartment and Stella loaned her £ 3,000 from her and her husband’s savings. Alacia did not reimburse anything.
Two weeks later – three days before the 2019 Christmas vacation – Stella received a registered letter from council stating that rent had not been paid for nine months and that the kids’ club would be kicked out the same week .
Stella says: “It was the day before Alacia’s 21st birthday. I had bought her a coat and a Pandora charm and there was also money for her in the cash register at work.
“I was obviously worried about the letter, but I was sure it was a mistake. I knew Alacia paid the rent every week. I watched her go to the school office, with the money.
“I texted Alacia and she assured me it was a big mistake.”
But that same night, Alacia sent another message – confess everything.
Stella says: “Alacia pocketed £ 7,600 in rent. I could not believe it. My whole family and all the staff were in shock.
“I bought her a nice Christmas and 21st birthday present. She had so much of me.
The next morning, desperate to pay what was owed, Stella emptied all of her personal accounts – including the savings accounts of her two grandchildren – to pay off the debt.
She was amazed to see Alacia arrive at work as usual – and collect her birthday money.
Stella said, “She thought she could make her way around me and get away with it, but there was no way at all.”
My oldest daughter, Holly, worked for me, and she lost her job, along with the rest of us. My rental car had to leave and I had to pay a penalty. I really struggled to make any money, although I had worked hard all my life.
Stella tried to keep the club going but it closed in early 2020, much to the dismay of all of her staff and the 96 families who relied on her.
She said, “Obviously we had massive debts thanks to Alacia. But more than that, my heart was not there. I just felt like I couldn’t go on. She had carried away all confidence and all good will.
“My oldest daughter, Holly, worked for me, and she lost her job, along with the rest of us. My rental car had to leave and I had to pay a penalty. I really struggled to make any money, although I had worked hard all my life.
“I went to see Alacia’s dad and asked him how he was after his stroke – and it turned out that he had never been sick at all. She had fabricated the whole story.
Alacia Bowker, now 22, appeared before Bolton Crown Court in September 2020 and admitted the theft.
Judge Graeme Smith sentenced her to 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months and ordered her to perform 120 hours of unpaid work plus 20 days of rehab.
She is also due to pay £ 2,500 in compensation over the next two years.
“It’s not full compensation for the damage you’ve done, but I can only order what you can afford to pay,” Justice Smith told him.
Stella says, “I was disgusted by the sentence. I was completely shocked, my business that I created for nine years and worked so hard for has disappeared. I used my own savings to pay off the debts. Yet she leaves with an order to pay me only £ 2,500.
“I’m so sorry for all the kids, who loved coming to the club. She let them down too. The whole community was touched by his greed.
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