Former Hallatrow head of finance jailed for 10 years for stealing more than £1million from employers

Tuesday 26th April 2022 11:16 am
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Michael Black. See SWNS story SWBRlavish
Michael Black (Avon and Somerset Constabulary / SWNS )

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A former company head of finance who lived in Hallatrow has been jailed for 10 years after admitting stealing more than £1million from his employers to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Michael Black, 56, fraudulently pocketed approximately £1.2million from three businesses he worked for between 2010 and 2019.

Black used his gains to live a life of luxury including going on several exotic holidays and buying expensive cars.

Black was trusted with company finances at three different businesses and on more than 400 occasions abused his position to transfer money from their accounts to his own. He disguised the transfers so they did not appear to go directly to him.

In addition, between 2010 and 2016, while working at a bathroom company in Somerset, he also used credit cards and wrote more than 200 company cheques for personal expenditure. He also paid himself illegitimate expenses totalling £36,000.

The money he obtained was used to purchase and extend an expensive family home, pay large mortgage payments, as well as to buy foreign family holidays and expensive cars.

He was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court to 10 years and nine months in prison and received a 12-year company director disqualification.

Amazon purchases

Evidence during the police investigation found Black used company credit cards over four years to make more than 1,000 Amazon purchases, including electronic items, speakers, books, plus DIY and gardening equipment.

His actions came to light while he was away on holiday in 2016 and issues arose with payments to suppliers. Close inspection of the accounts identified fraudulent payments.

After leaving the company, he went on to work for a dentistry business where he stole more money, which was partly used to repay some of what he stole from his previous employer. He then defrauded a music promotion business while working for them between 2017 and 2019.

Black, of Paulton Road in Hallatrow, Somerset, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud on 7 February. Three further counts were ordered to lie on file.

Judge Michael Longman described Black’s actions as "despicable" and acknowledged the impact the offending has had on people working at the businesses Black defrauded.

Steven Hawkins, managing director of UK Bathroom Village Ltd, from which Black took a seven-figure sum, said the impact had been ‘immeasurable’.

Mr Hawkins said, in a personal victim statement to the court: “The revelation of Michael’s fraud and extent of the financial damage left staff worrying about losing their jobs and the senior management team worrying about the survival of the business.

“We have spent hours, days, weeks, months, years, unravelling Michael’s deception, not to mention the time spent with the police investigation, meeting legal entities and for a long time we were embroiled in the investigation, rather than moving the business forward.

“Due to Michael’s fraudulent activities, we were unable to use profits to give staff pay rises and we lost many good people purely down to financial reasons. We are rebuilding relationships with suppliers that Michael destroyed, due to his fractious behaviour and we continue to work tirelessly to rebuild our reputation within the industry.

“To add insult to injury, at one point Michael even claimed we owed him money, a statement that was untrue of course, but highlights the audacity of this calculated, deceitful man.”

Mr Hawkins said Black’s fraud led to the company being put into administration in 2019 but has been able to relaunch.

He added: “To this day, we are still recovering from Michael’s actions. I cannot bear to think about the missed opportunities and where the business would be today if we had that money to invest over the years. Unfortunately, we have been working with a parasite, who had been feeding off our trusting nature.

“He enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, creating a manor house, driving a fancy car, going on expensive holidays and hosting lavish parties. He led people to believe he was well connected and an astute businessman who could be relied on – when really, he was nothing more than a thief.”

Speaking after the case, designated fraud investigator Niki White said: “Michael Black spent years trying to cover his tracks to hide the fraud he was committing.

“He sought to use company money to fund a lifestyle he wanted but could not afford. His motivation was pure greed.

“It’s often said that crime does not pay and Black has learned that lesson with this sentencing.”

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