A celebrity chef said he was “gobsmacked” by a judge’s decision not to jail a married couple who stole £150,000 from his restaurant.
Stephen Terry, a former Michelin star chef who has been on the BBC’s Great British Menu, fell victim to fraud by Nicola and Simon Nightingale at The Hardwick in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire.
They were given suspended sentences, which he called an “absolute joke”.
He said the impact of the fraud was “potentially devastating”.
At Cardiff Crown Court, they were both given suspended two-year sentences and must also complete 100 hours of unpaid work.
Judge Barry Clarke said sending both defendants to prison would have had a “lasting, negative impact on [the children] and upon their development”.
Man guilty of role in ex-Michelin star chef theft
In March 2020, Mr Terry became suspicious of Nicola Nightingale’s behaviour and tried to contact her and her husband about irregularities in the accounts.
They did not reply and Nicola Nightingale then resigned as an office administrator via an email.
Mr Terry then contacted the police who discovered that, over a two-year period, Nicola Nightingale had transferred almost £47,000 into her husband’s bank account, made direct payments of more than £50,000 to her own account, inflated her wages by £6,000 and made additional payments to herself disguised as paid wages of £47,000.
It also emerged that two £40,000 loans had been taken out in Mr Terry’s name without his permission.
The court heard that Nicola Nightingale used the money to fund her spending addiction.During Simon Nightingale’s trial, it was revealed that some of the money was spent on holidays abroad.
In a victim impact statement, Mr Terry said what happened had “no doubt” damaged his reputation.
“The impact of being defrauded of such a significant amount of money and having large outstanding payments to my suppliers is potentially devastating,” he said.