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School thief stole for cocaine-fuelled nights

PUBLISHED: 12:15 03 September 2009 | UPDATED: 16:26 07 September 2010

Josie Hinton AN office manager who plundered a Maida Vale school bank account to pay for cocaine-fuelled nights with her fugitive friend has been spared jail. Married Sonia Blanco, 30, pictured right, stole more than £60,000 in just over a year from the B

Josie Hinton

AN office manager who plundered a Maida Vale school bank account to pay for cocaine-fuelled nights with her fugitive friend has been spared jail.

Married Sonia Blanco, 30, pictured right, stole more than £60,000 in just over a year from the Beachcroft House pupil referral unit in Shirland Road, where she worked.

The mother-of-one, who started working as a classroom assistant in September 2003 before being promoted to office manager in June 2006, gave thousands to close friend Alberto Samiantor to blow on cocaine and lavish foreign holidays.

She also used some of the cash to pay off her council tax, utility bills and credit cards, and gave £20,000 to her husband.

Blanco, from Kilburn, admitted fraud at Southwark Crown Court last Thursday.

Judge John Price sentenced her to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.

He said: "You have pleaded guilty to a systematic fraud on your employer. You wrote 89 cheques totalling £61,000. They went on domestic bills, some to your husband and then you went out partying and took cocaine and met a man and paid £31,000 to him.

"On these facts the appropriate sentence after a trial would have been at least two years.

"You have to be extraordinarily grateful to all those who have looked after you, your family, friends, doctors and lawyers, which has persuaded me not to lock you up.

"You have a desperate need to be loved, such that the psychiatrist thinks you may have a borderline personality disorder."

As office manager, Blanco was made a signatory for the school bank account chequebook which she used to plunder the school's account. Lloyds paid out the cash even though the signature of the headmistress was required for amounts above £200.

Blanco was only arrested after staff queried a £5,000 cheque with the school headmistress Alison Toia in July 2007. An investigation later revealed the school account was £62,000 in arrears. Cheques had been made out to Blanco's husband Gustavo Jimunez, the London Borough of Brent, London Energy Plc and Sky TV among others.

Blanco admitted five counts of obtaining money transfer by deception and three counts of fraud. Her accomplice Samiantor was arrested but absconded after being released on bail. Blanco's husband was also arrested but claimed his wife had total control over their financial affairs.

Blanco will remain under supervision of the Probation Service for 18 months. Lloyds TSB has refunded all the stolen money.

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