A woman who plundered thousands from her employers to line her own pockets has been jailed for 15 months.

Alison Bush, 45, was head hunted from a lettings agent to run her new bosses property portfolio in Trowbridge.

But Bush abused her position to get her hands on the cash paid as rent from tenants at two blocks on Frome Road.

And she also pinched a tax rebate due to one of the company's clients and took it to a cheque cashing shop with a fake power of attorney letter and pocketed the money.

Colin Meeke, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court that victim Anne Marie Gillam met Bush when she was working for Heritage Lettings and managing her properties.

In 2010 she offered her a her and set up Townsend Letting, a subsidiary of her company Virginia Water Ltd, with the defendant as the sole permanent employee.

"Her responsibilities were really quite simple: to let the flats in a proper manner, collect deposits, pay them in, check references, making sure properties were let in a fit state and recovered in a fit state," Mr Meeke said.

"Most importantly it was receive the rents and to account for them. It is the Crown's submission that this was not a difficult task to perform.

"What became clear was the defendant stopped managing the properties in a proper manner at a relatively early stage.

"She stopped taking proper references and stopped taking account of who had paid what."

He said much of the rent was paid in cash and many of the clients said they never got the correct receipts and after Bush suddenly quit accountants found vast sums missing.

Mr Meeke said the Crown believed in excess of £30,000 had not made it in to the company bank account, but Bush insists it was only half that.

He told the court that as she was the only one to know for sure how much she had it was impossible for them to prove it was more.

Mr Meeke said she pocketed £350 given by one tenant as a deposit and a £531 rental cheque which she paid into her own account.

Another tenant was expecting an HMRC repayment and when it never came he made inquiries.

It was found Bush had got hold of the £2,192.48p cheque and cashed it at Silk Ltd in Trowbridge, using a forged letter giving her permission to get the money.

Miss Gillam, who lives in France, said the company was brought to its knees by the deceit, only recovering after two years' work to sort out the issues.

Bush, now living in Nottingham, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and one of fraud.

Chris Smyth, defending, said his client was 'woefully unqualified' to carry out the job but did handle more than £250,000 worth of rent without problems.

He said that she was drinking two bottles of wine a day, her husband was a gambler and a son a heroin addict.

Although she told police she had done nothing wrong he said when she was finally brought before the court she admitted what she had done.

Jailing her, Recorder Patrick Clarkson QC said: "It is impossible for the prosecution to be exactly sure how much was taken as you were the only person who knew the circumstances of what was taken and how.

"The mitigation, it may well be that you were over promoted, it may be that you were well meaning but disorganised, but you managed deal properly with a quarter of a million pounds worth going in to the business.

"It may have been an excessive degree of trust but it is a degree of trust you managed to that extent.

"You managed to cream off a significant part of it. t the end of the day it has to be a sentence of imprisonment."