Couple forced to pay £1 after swindling Gordon Ramsay’s best man out of £150,000

A husband and wife who swindled Gordon Ramsay’s close friend out of £150,000 to jet off on luxury family holidays have been told to pay back just £1.

Mum-of-five Nicola Nightingale, 48, was working as a financial administrator at The Hardwick restaurant, in Abergavenny,  Monmouthshire, owned by chef Stephen Terry.

TV chef Mr Terry, who was Gordon Ramsay’s best man and appeared on BBC TV’s Great British Menu, hired Mrs Nightingale to look after the accounts.

But she stole £150,000 from the restaurant while transferring £46,000 into the account of husband Simon Nightingale, 50, to splash out on luxury holidays.

A court heard the couple jetted off on a string of trips abroad to Disneyland Paris, Disney World Florida, France and anniversary stays in Morocco.

Stephen Terry, who was Gordon Ramsay's best man, was swindled out of £150,000

Stephen Terry, who was Gordon Ramsay’s best man, was swindled out of £150,000 – Wales news service

The alarm was raised when Mr Terry grew suspicious. He found money was missing and discovered two £40,000 loans had been taken out in his name along with a £10,000 shortfall in the pension pot.

Prosecutor Tom Roberts said Mrs Nightingale “generated fake invoices from fictitious suppliers” after she was employed at the country inn.

Inflated wages and bogus invoices

The court heard she began working at the restaurant in February 2018 before she started to pay herself inflated wages and create bogus invoices.

Mr Roberts said: “She gave the impression that the business was running smoothly but she had in fact run it into significant debt.”

The total money stolen from the restaurant in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, was £150,234.63 between February 2018 and February 2020.

Mrs Nightingale, of Deal, Kent, pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position. Her husband was found guilty of acquiring criminal property after a trial.

The couple were handed two-year sentences suspended for two years at Cardiff Crown Court in May this year.

The Hardwick in Abergavenny in Monmouthshire

The Hardwick in Abergavenny in Monmouthshire – Wales news service

A proceeds of crime hearing has now been told a “thorough” examination of their finances revealed no releasable assets.

Judge Shomon Khan handed out £1 confiscation orders to be made for Mr and Mrs Nightingale.

He said: “There has been a lot of interest in his case but there has been a thorough investigation and that’s where we are in terms of the recoverable amount and this is as far as the courts can take it.”

After their sentence, chef Mr Terry said it was an “absolute joke” that the couple walked free after defrauding his restaurant out of £150,000.

‘Got away with it’

He said: “I am disappointed there was no custodial sentence for what they have put myself through. For someone to come and do that I think she practically got away with it.

“They had holidays we could have only dreamed of and all of a sudden you find out you’re paying for it. For them to result in getting a suspended sentence is a travesty.

“What kind of message does that send out? It’s a joke, an absolute joke.

“This should be a lesson for all people not to trust, do your research, get references and be aware of how your business is being run. We trusted her and unfortunately she didn’t fulfil her job title.

“Get involved in your business because I am sure it’s going on as we speak – and it’s an absolute killer. We have managed to survive by the skin of our teeth but we’re still repaying debt. We’re good at what we do and have managed to work through that.”

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