A finance manager employed by a children’s nursery stole more than £200,000 from the business.

Amanda Visconti, who has been jailed for three years, was described in court by her former employer as “manipulative and deceitful” for raiding the accounts over several years, taking money which should have been spent on the children.

She covered her tracks over a long period of time by moving money between different accounts.

Visconti, aged 56, of Southlands Road in Weymouth, was sentenced at Bournemouth Crown Court after pleading guilty to fraud by abuse of position and also to false accounting.

The court heard how Visconti started working at Little Firs Day Nursery in Weymouth in 2003, before becoming its financial manager in 2009, being responsible for the nursery’s financial accounts.

Prosecutor Robin Leach said her offences were first discovered in June 2017.

A meeting was held by the nursery’s management committee after staff complained they hadn’t been paid their wages.

At the meeting Visconti admitted taking money from the accounts.

Mr Leach said: “She was arrested, her office was searched, and it was found that there was financial paperwork missing, some of which was later discovered by police at her home.

“A year long investigation then took place by an accountant who discovered that money was missing in a number of different places and had been taken by the defendant. It looked as though it had been stolen regularly throughout the period from when she became the nursery’s financial manager.

“It seems she was able to cover up what she was doing by moving money from the savings account to the current account and back again.”

The amount she was taking each year was estimated at between £20,000 to £25,000. That increased during 2016 and 2017, when Visconti was reported to be taking up to £50,000 from the nursery.

Mr Leach read a victim impact statement from Wendy Parker of Little Firs.

It said: “This has had a significant impact on myself and other members of staff. We trusted Mandy, despite some issues with stress at work. I considered her a friend and we trusted she was doing the job and took her word for the state our accounts were in.

“It has left us in such shock and confusion about how manipulative and deceitful she has been.

“We provide a service to a deprived area of Weymouth. All this money taken over the years could have been put to good use in resources for the children. She’s been taking money away from them for years.

“I can’t comprehend what she’s done and how long she was doing it for. The impact of this has been a horrendous and emotional journey for us all.

“How do you spend that sum of money and have nothing to show for it? I don’t understand where it has all gone.”

Tim Shorter, mitigating, said Visconti was remorseful.

He added: “She is someone who by her own actions has effectively ruined her life. She will never be in a position of trust again. She knows she must be punished.”

He said there had been a breakdown in her marriage and family life, which may have led to her actions.

Mr Shorter added: “The acceleration in final years maybe due to the breakdown of her marriage and the disaffection of two of her children. Perhaps trying to buy a repair to those relationships. It’s difficult to say.”

Judge Steven Climie told Visconti: “Pre-schools are to be cherished, not abused. But you, for a period of time, abused the trust that was placed in you in the role of financial manager.”

Judge Climie said that Visconti took £214,000 from the nursery during her time in the role.

The judge heard her family has made a repayment of £75,000 towards the amount taken from the nursery and Visconti and her husband will be selling the former family home, which is expected to cover the remaining amount.

Judge Clime said: “I accept on the part of your husband that part of the nursery is to be refunded in equity from the sale of the former family home.”