A WIRRAL business was "brought to ts knees" because their trusted in-house accountant stole nearly £170,000 - then bragged about his luxury lifestsyle on the internet.

Stephen Siddell's dishonesty led to 16 people losing their jobs while he and his wife, Louise Siddell, took luxury foreign holidays.

They even posted photographs of their stay in a six bedroom villa in Cyprus on Facebook boasting, “because we're worth it”

Liverpool Crown Court heard the couple had lock-up garage in Bromborough, which was an “Aladdin’s cave” full of their expensive furniture and designer goods.

24-year-old Louise Siddell had also used their ill-gotten gains to pay for jewellery and breast enhancement.

But while they led a lavish lifestyle, his dishonesty forced his employers to lay off two thirds of their workforce.

The court was told that the Liscard firm, Property and Land Information (PALi) Ltd is still in danger of collapsing and the directors have ploughed in £100,00 of their own cash to save it.

A further 30 offices, which employ staff who rely on PALi, have also been affected.

28-year-old Siddell, of Serpentine Road, Wallasey, was jailed for three years five months. He had pleaded guilty to 63 offences of theft and three of fraud.

His pregnant wife and mother of their two young children was put behind bars for six months but she will be released before their next child is due in September.

Judge Nigel Gilmour QC told them, “I have read your Facebook entries that cover the period while you were enjoying the fruits of your criminal behaviour.

“They make deeply unattractive reading, boasting of the luxury on holiday in Cyprus."

He told Louise Siddell, of Union Street, Wallasey, “I have no doubt at all that you demonstrated to all and sundry, including your husband, that you liked the new spending power you had.

“Your husband was keen to satisfy your love for material goods.”

He told her that if she had not been pregnant the sentence would have been considerably longer. She had pleaded guilty to money laundering, Ian Davies, prosecuting, said that Siddell began his scam within just three weeks of starting at the business in October 2009.

He was responsible for handling and receiving payments to and from clients. But instead of paying and cashing invoices, Siddell siphoned £166,710 into his own bank account and that of his wife.

Siddell, who earned just £15,000, deposited £86,614 into his wife’s account in just five months. In April 2010, Louise Siddell had just 75p in her account, but between June 5 and July 5 more than £27,600 was paid in.

He paid so much cash into his own accounts that his bank became suspicious and imposed a block on them. But he simply produced a forged letter claiming he was earning “uncapped commission” to explain the massive amounts.

He also admitted making a fraudulent loan application for £80,600, pretending he was earning £135,000 a year. He was caught before the cash was transferred.

Mr Davies said that after bosses discovered the scam they found drawers full of unpaid invoices and the firm's debts almost matched the amount stolen by Siddell.

Director Nick Small Snr, who has helped build the small business up over the last 11 years, told how the couple enjoyed the high-life while he has given up some of his retirement savings to help the business.

“Stephen and his wife were boasting of their “new found wealth” on Facebook, posting photographs of themselves lying besides infinity pools at their six-bedroom villa, nights at the Hard Days night hotel and the Lowry hotel.

“One thing that still haunts me is when Louise posted “because we're worth it” when boasting about a luxury they had bought. This phrase makes me so angry.”

"His stealing had brought the company to its knees and forced redundancy of two thirds of his colleagues."

John Ballam, defending, said that Stephen Siddell co-operated with police and admitted in interview that, “It just got completely out of hand. I wish I had never started in the first place.”

Siddell, who has two sons from a previous relationship, was “thoroughly ashamed” and wanted to pay back the cash, he said, Paul Lewis, defending Louise Siddell, said she had been suspicious about but did not have “direct knowledge” of the source of the money. He said she had sympathy for the company and had brought shame upon her family.