Chippenham couple betrayed by friend who stole £70k
Former nightclub manager Jack Frost and his wife Debbie have spoken out after a former colleague and family friend fraudulently stole almost £70,000 from their business.
The owners of DJ Security Ltd put their faith in church-going Marcia Tripp, 35, of Stapleford Close, Chippenham, seven years ago to help look after the company books, having worked with her before in various businesses in the town.
“She used to come round here and work in the office in the house and so we became really good friends,” said Mrs Frost, 47, of Sandpiper Gardens, whose husband used to manage the Chippenham nightclub Karma.
“We started socialising together and going for meals with her and her husband and she would even invite us for family birthday parties.
“When she got pregnant she had her baby at 26 weeks and he spent a year in hospital so at the time she didn’t work for six months for us, but Jack carried on paying her.
“When she came back to work she would sometimes bring the baby with her and I would look after him for an hour or two so she could work.”
Mrs Tripp has two homes in Chippenham and, at the time, had one in Dubai and was often flaunting expensive five star holidays abroad. She wore designer clothing and drove an Audi A4 convertible, but only earned £60-a-week. But Mrs Frost had faith in her friend and assumed her champagne lifestyle was down to her husband Pete, a builder, who she believed had been doing well at work.
In reality, the family friend was deceiving the Frosts and taking their hard-earned money, and even had the audacity to suggest they sack one of their security guards to keep costs down.
It was only by chance that the couple discovered they were being betrayed in July last year, when a security guard complained his wages were £250 short.
When questioned, Mrs Tripp denied all knowledge, but eventually she admitted she had made a mistake and would sort it out. She refused to talk about it further, but Mr Frost had already grown suspicious as to where the missing wages had gone.
Following further investigations, looking back through their books, Mr Frost realised his bookkeeper had been requesting £1,000 more each time than was required for staff wages, sometimes more.
Mr Frost, 52, who is head of security at Emery Gate, would also often give Mrs Tripp signed cheques for her to write out as part of the business, and when he checked for any discrepancies he discovered she had written out a total of £36,000 to herself over time.
The same day as details of the betrayal were unravelling, Mrs Tripp called Mrs Frost to boast of a £1,000 holiday she had just booked.
“I felt physically sick,” Mrs Frost said.
“That was the last week before we were about to go from wages in cash to online banking and if it hadn’t happened then, we never would have known.”
Upon taking legal advice they took Mrs Tripp to civil court at Bath County Court in June, where she was ordered to pay back all the money, including interest and court costs, after she admitted taking £68,557.35.
Mrs Frost has three children: Laura Stutt, 24, of Bristol; Jordan, 17, a landscape gardener; and Harry, 15, a student at Hardenhuish School, as well as one step-daughter Carly, 32, of Malmesbury Road, Chipp-enham.
Mrs Frost said she can never forgive someone who she considered to be one of her best friends.
She said: “I have just been gobsmacked by everything that has happened. Marcia would have been the last person on a list of friends that I thought would ever do something like this.
“At the start I was really, really hurt and I felt really betrayed. I just couldn’t believe it.
“Over time I keep thinking of how she was with me and how she was being so callous and yet acting like my best friend all the time.
“I just think it is time people know what she is like.”
Mrs Tripp was unavailable for comment.