Fraud­ster jailed over £131,000 swin­dle

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser - - Front Page - Court reporter

An Ai rdrie man who fraud­u­lently ob­tained more than £ 130,000 from his em­ployer has been jailed.

Robert Stew­art, 49, wan­gled his way into a £49,000-a-year job af­ter falsely claim­ing to have a de­gree in ac­coun­tancy from St An­drew’s Univer­sity. He sub­se­quently ripped off al­most £131,000 from his em­ploy­ers.

At Ed­in­burgh Sheri f f Court yes­ter­day, Stew­art, who ap­peared from cus­tody, was jailed for 21 months and or­dered to pay back all of the money within 12 months through the sale of his Cairn­hill home.

The con man had pre­vi­ously pled guilty to em­bez­zling £130,956 from his em­ploy­ers, Cash Gen­er­a­tor and The Cheque Cen­tre of Bankhead Cross­way North, Ed­in­burgh, be­tween Au­gust 2011, and Oc­to­ber 2013. Sen­tence had been de­ferred for re­ports.

At the pre­vi­ous hear­ing, Sher­iff Don­ald Corke heard that the com­pany’s man­ag­ing direc­tor re­ceived a let­ter, “sug­gest­ing per­haps they might like to look into the ac­cused’s claims, as he didn’t ap­pear to be what he said he was and his qual­i­fi­ca­tions might not be gen­uine”.

An in­quiry was held and the com­pany dis­cov­ered Stew­art was in­deed not what

he pre­sented him­self to be. A meet­ing was called but Stew­art went off sick, then took an­nual leave and fi­nally ten­dered his res­ig­na­tion. De­spite this, his em­ploy­ers dis­missed him.

An au­dit was car­ried out and it re­vealed that nu­mer­ous pay­ments had been made into ac­counts held by him.

At yes­ter­day’s hear­ing, Sher­iff Corke was told that Stew­art’s at­tempts to sell his house had been un­suc­cess­ful. The sher­iff pointed out that the case had first been called in May 2014, and at a first diet in July that year, Stew­art pled guilty.

His wife died of can­cer in June 2015, and Stew­art made re­peated prom­ises to sell the house but re­fused of­fers from a fam­ily mem­ber and a friend.

He then failed to make a court ap­pear­ance in 2015 and a war­rant was is­sued for his ar­rest. He was re­manded in cus­tody in Au­gust this year.

Sher­iff Corke told him: “You did not try to use the time to raise the money.” He said that Stew­art had ap­peared at Dum­bar­ton Sher­iff Court in 1992 on two charges of fraud, when a sen­tence of 18 months was re­duced to 240 hours un­der a com­mu­nity pay­back order.

“You had a warn­ing then,” said Sher­iff Corke.

Re­fer­ring to the present case, the sher­iff said: “You were taken on as an ac­coun­tant on the strength of a nonex­is­tent grad­u­a­tion from St An­drew’s Univer­sity and, in a course of crim­i­nal con­duct which only came to light by a let­ter, you took and squan­dered a sub­stan­tial amount of money.

“Given your record and the na­ture of the of­fence, which in­volves a sub­stan­tial breach of trust, and fail­ing to take ad­van­tage of var­i­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties given by the court to pay back the money, only a cus­to­dial sen­tence is ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Sher­iff Corke told him a sen­tence of 24 months would be re­duced to 21 months as the guilty plea had avoided a trial. But he im­posed a com­pen­sa­tion order for £130,956 to be paid to the com­pa­nies within 12 months.

“That should be suf­fi­cient time for you to sell your house,” the sher­iff said.

Jailed Stew­art was given 21 months

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