A finance manager who stole over £100,000 from her firm and almost caused its closure has been spared jail and ordered to repay just £1.
Sarah Taylor used her trusted position at packaging firm Samuel Grant North East, based in Jarrow and established 126 years ago, to pocket £100,690 by siphoning money from accounts and misusing the company credit card.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the financial loss made company bosses consider whether the branch should be closed down and 13 jobs were put at risk.
The 35-year-old, who has none of the money left, said she bought many gifts for others, including colleagues, and had been "buying friendship" with the stolen cash.
Prosecutor Stuart Graham told the court the money was taken between June 2015 and May 2017.
Mr Graham said: "The group finance director and the board of directors of the parent companies were thinking seriously about the future of the branch
"It was suggested it was simply no longer a financially viable company.
"That, of course, was the case because the defendant was stealing from the branch and this was having a serious impact upon the finances.
"He said if the defendant had continued to steal at the rate she was doing, this would have resulted in the close of Samuel Grant Ltd North East and most of the staff, approximately 13, would have been made redundant."
The court heard to conceal her dishonesty, Taylor had avoided sending out customers' monthly statements, which would have shown discrepancies due to the way she moved money around within the firm.
Mr Graham added: "As a result of her hiding money and not sending out statements, those customers were getting increasingly annoyed at not having statements and were threatening to cease trading with the company.
"The company would not be able to continue trading had it lost key customers."
The court heard prosecutors had activated proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act, to get the stolen money back, but Mr Graham said "there are no assets" and therefore the repayable amount Taylor should be ordered to pay is £1.
Taylor, of Cheviot View, Gateshead, admitted two charges of theft and one of fraud.
Judge Julie Clemitson sentenced her to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 200 hours unpaid work.
The judge told her: "The impact was significant, consideration was being given to whether the branch was viable, whether it should continue or whether it was necessary for people, who you say you were giving gifts to and being friendly with, may in fact be made redundant. Thirteen people had their employment put at risk by your actions."
Judge Clemitson said Taylor did not spent the stolen cash on a "lavish lifestyle" has no convictions, is remorseful and is of previous good character.
The judge told Taylor: "You get this one chance and one chance only."
Jennifer Coxon, defending, said Taylor was deep in debt when she started taking money, with a view to paying it back, and is still in a "considerable amount of debt".
Miss Coxon added: "She certainly has not put herself in any better position by what she has done.
"She explains she bought a lot of things for family and friends and these friends were people who worked in that company."
Miss Coxon said Taylor has a history of anxiety and depression and added: "She, in her words, buys friendships."
The court heard Taylor "deeply, deeply regrets and is deeply shameful" of what she did.