A CROOKED couple who jointly conned a celebrity TV chef out of £150,000 have been sentenced.

Grandmother and mother-of-five Nicola Nightingale was handed a suspended jail sentence after she defrauded chef Stephen Terry, who was Gordon Ramsay's best man.

The 48-year-old had fleeced him after being hired as an office administrator to look after the finances at his award-winning Abergavenny restaurant the Hardwick.

Her husband Simon Nightingale, 51, who pocketed £46,000 from the swindle, was also handed a suspended prison sentence. 

Nicola Nightingale pleaded guilty to fraud while he was convicted of possession of criminal property following a trial at Cardiff Crown Court.

She stole £150,000 by creating fake invoices, taking out loans in the company’s name and inflating her pay.

Thomas Stanway, prosecuting, told jurors at Simon Nightingale’s trial she made some bank  transfers out of the restaurant account while the couple were enjoying a luxury Disney family holiday in Florida.

South Wales Argus:

Nicola Nightingale. Picture: Facebook

The pair, formerly of Church Road, Gilwern, near Abergavenny went on frequent expensive holidays to other destinations such as France and Morocco, the trial heard.

Mr Terry, a regular on BBC television show Great British Menu, was struggling to keep his restaurant in Abergavenny going after the scam which took place between 2018 and 2020.

South Wales Argus:

Simon Nightingale. Picture: Facebook

In a victim impact statement, he told the court: “She completely abused her position and my trust and left the Hardwick in a vulnerable position.”

Simon Nightingale had denied possessing criminal property, the cash transferred to him by his wife, but was found guilty after a four-day trial.

Mr Terry told the court he had relied on Nicola Nightingale to take care of the restaurant’s finances but revealed she could be “aloof and entitled”.

He said: “It was hard for us. I was working 15 hours a day, seven days a week. We were not taking a wage and in dire straits financially.”

Alarm bells started to ring when Mr Terry and his wife were expecting a £38,000 rate rebate from Monmouthshire council but instead discovered the business owed £6,000.

Mr Terry said he became "suspicious" when Nicola Nightingale told him she needed to take out a loan to keep the restaurant going.

He told the jury: “She said she had gambled with the cash flow and instead of paying £4,000 a month in rates, she was only paying £1,000.

“I was shocked, it was quite a big deal so I said I’ll go home and speak to my wife because she will go bonkers. I went home and she did go bonkers.”

Monmouthshire council issued the restaurant with a summons for unpaid rates but she kept it secret from her boss.

Susan Ferrier, representing Nicola Nightingale, said his client had “an addictive personality”.

Her barrister told the court: “She has had an extreme problem with alcoholism and her mental health.”

She added how the defendant had pleaded guilty at the very first opportunity and has no previous convictions.

Martin Taylor, for Simon Nightingale, said: “There is a degree of massive regret to have allowed this situation to have arisen.

“He does blame himself.”

The judge, Recorder Barry Clarke, jailed Nicola Nightingale for two years suspended for two years.

She was ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and a 12-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

Her husband was also also jailed or two years suspended for two years.

He was ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.

The defendants are set to face a proceeds of crime hearing later this year.