A woman who worked for the same firm for 12 years since leaving school has been jailed for stealing £70,000 from it.
Suzanne Manley took cash and cheques paid to Carterton Tyres, where she was the accounts manager.
The 30-year-old's actions also left the firm with more than £12,000 in penalties from HM Revenue and Customs, for failing to pay VAT.
At one point, the managing director had to use his own money to pay staff wages when funds dried up.
At first intending to pay the money back, she became used to the extra money and the lifestyle it brought.
When questions were asked, she confessed and told her boss she thought she had taken about £70,000.
Manley, of Chichester Road, Bracebridge Heath, pleaded guilty to theft, transferring criminal property and fraud.
When she returned to Oxford Crown Court to be sentenced, Judge Gordon Risius told her: "Having joined the company straight from school at the age of 17 you were soon given responsibility for the company's accounts.
"Over the next few years you became one of the company's most trusted employees, to the extent the managing director relied on you implicitly.
"There were no concerns about you until the beginning of 2010, until you reported an insufficiency of funds to pay the wages."
Carterton Tyres Ltd is a small firm providing every day vehicle and specialist agricultural tyres, as well as a breakdown recovery from the village of Carterton, Oxfordshire.
Manley was appointed to the post of accounts manager, allowing her the opportunity to divert cash and later to transfer cheque payments from the firm to her own account.
The judge heard from Stephen Parker, for the defence, that her mother – who herself had been an accountant – had been seriously ill and it was only after she died that Manley admitted what had happened.
Judge Risius said: "By Christmas 2010 concerns were increasing but even then alarm bells didn't start ringing.
"After your mother's death the VAT office reported that the company VAT bills weren't being paid.
"Eventually, in February 2011, you called the managing director and said you could no longer work for the company.
"When he asked why you said you had been pinching from the company and it had been going on for a while."
The theft charge related to £70,000 in cash taken over 11 years, from January 1, 2000, to February 18, 2011.
Transferring criminal property related to £41,287 being moved between accounts between August 3, 2005, and February 18, 2011.
The fraud count was in relation to the abuse of her position as manager of the company accounts, spanning a period from January 15, 2007, and February 18, 2011.
The judge said the fact that Manley was such a trusted member of staff and the fact it had been going on for so long, were both aggravating features in the case.
He added: "I accept you intended paying it back initially but you failed to do so and it spiralled out of control. You became reliant on the extra income.
"Your actions have had a real effect, not only on the company and its owners but also on your follow employees and the customers, too."
He exonerated the firm of any blame for the situation, telling Manley: "There can be no question of blaming anyone but yourself."
In the circumstances he said the least sentence he could pass for the offence was four-and-a-half years behind bars, but he reduced it by a third to three years because of the guilty pleas.
Crown prosecutors are pursuing formal confiscation proceedings through the courts under the Proceeds of Crime Act to get back as much of the stolen money as possible.