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Crooked Cannock accountant jailed after stealing £86,000

Cannock | Crime | Published:

A crooked chartered accountant who showed "a cynical disregard" for those he worked with as he systematically stole from a family-owned group of companies has been jailed.

Greedy Karl Bourne had abused his high position of trust as chief financial controller with Kingsbury Jig and Tool Group Ltd to steal just over £86,000 over a nine-year period.

And when the police found more than £27,000 of the stolen money at his Cannock home, he tried to put the blame on one of the firm’s directors he claimed had asked him to keep a slush fund.

Bourne, aged 58, of Brisbane Way, Cannock, was jailed for three years after pleading guilty to four charges of fraud, two of false accounting and one of theft at Warwick Crown Court.

Prosecutor Sophie Murray said the Kingsbury Jig and Tool Group was a "very cash-rich" group of companies which produces bespoke precision engineering machinery.

Bourne, a chartered accountant, had been chief financial controller with the group, based at Bassetts Pole, near Sutton Coldfield, for almost 20 years before he was dismissed in 2016 because of some irregularities.

Following his departure it was discovered that quite significant sums of money had gone missing.

But because he had taken memory sticks containing the financial records with him, and other records were on ‘a quite antiquated software system,’ it was difficult to work out the extent of his dishonesty.

“The deception, which had gone on for many years, was compounded by the way he had kept the books in such a fashion that no-one could really make head nor tail of what was going on.”

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So the then company secretary Michael Hedley had to trawl through paper copies of transactions to try to get to the bottom of what Bourne had been doing.

And the company had to engage solicitors and forensic accountants at a cost of £24,000 to work it all out.

It emerged that Bourne’s dishonesty had begun in 2007 with him submitting expenses claims twice on 183 occasions over a period of four years, covering it up in the petty cash book.

Things escalated in 2010 when he started issuing cheques from subsidiary companies to cover him taking a total of £60,326 from the group’s petty cash funds between then and his dismissal.

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The third method he employed was to issue cheques made out to cash, including one for £8,887 from GT3 Racing Ltd and another for £5,200 from Forge Engineering Ltd.

Bourne, who also stole £1,200 from GT3 Racing’s petty cash account, ‘muddied the waters’ by submitting parts of the accounts late, so there was no obvious way to balance the books.

Miss Murray said Bourne had obtained a total of £86,063 – which she said did not include £27,414 in cash which was found stashed at his home, which has since been returned to the company.

But Jon Roe, defending, said Bourne’s case was that that money was ‘part and parcel’ of the total figure.

Miss Murray added that when he was interviewed Bourne had tried to put the blame on one of the group’s directors, claiming he had been asked to keep the cash at his home as ‘a slush fund.’

And when he was questioned again, he accepted there had been ‘anomalies,’ but that they had happened innocently and that he would have repaid the money.

Mr Roe said Bourne had worked hard all his life and had also carried out voluntary work, in particular with swimming clubs, and he ‘struggles to explain what triggered his mistakes.’

He said Bourne was at a low ebb, caring for his elderly parents, at the time the offending began, and its escalation had coincided with his wife leaving him in 2012.

Asking the judge to ‘show some level of mercy,’ Mr Roe suggested that the sentence could be brought down to one which could be suspended.

But jailing Bourne, Judge Anthony Potter told him: “You are, by the admissions you made, a thoroughly dishonest man who demonstrated his cynical disregard for those he had worked with for many years when he systematically stole from them.

“You were able to carry out these offences because you had been appointed the chief financial controller of a family-owned business. You had access to and control of the accounts of all of the companies.

“You will have got to know well the owners and directors, and they thought those accounts were in safe hands.

“In fact the reality was that for almost half of the time you were employed by the company, you were effectively being paid to steal from it, and the indictment spans a nine-year period.

“You knew it would be very difficult to question you and to actually work out what you had done, and you made it harder because when you were suspended, you took with you the records which might have been used to investigate what you had done.

“This is a fraud perpetrated for your own greed. It was a high abuse of trust, perpetrated for a period of nine years. Mercifully the company was not put at risk by what you did.”

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