‘Well-respected academic’ woman jailed for complex £150,000 fraud
A ‘WELL-RESPECTED academic’ has been jailed after orchestrating a complex fraud which netted her more than £150,000.
Dr Maria Magdalena Leitner, 56, of Water Street, Bollington, was sentenced at Chester Crown Court after being convicted after a trial in April of three counts of fraud, as well as one count each for obtaining credit whilst bankrupt, failing to deliver assets to the Official Receiver and acting as a director while bankrupt.
Prosecutor Adrian Harris told the court that in 2005, Dr Leitner set up Equine Research & Information Centre Limited (ERIC) a specialist horse research company.
In 2010, Dr Leitner wanted to buy specialist camera equipment and under the guise of ERIC applied for funds through a leasing company so that she could buy the cameras worth $250,000 from a company based in the United States.
But Dr Leitner dishonestly secured £297,000, more than the equipment was worth, as she told the leasing company she was buying the camera equipment not from the firm in the United States but from another company that she had falsely set-up.
Dr Leitner did this to make the leasing company believe that this was a valid transaction for the larger amount.
And once she received the funds, instead of paying the full amount due to the camera supplier, Dr Leitner used the money to clear some of her debts, including mortgage payments.
Dr Leitner did pay back more than £128,000 to the leasing company but when she stopped making payments, the leasing company applied to have her made bankrupt in 2012.
The camera supplier still had not released the equipment from storage as it had not received full payment.
However, despite being restricted from borrowing money as a bankrupt, Leitner illegally came to a credit agreement with the camera supplier so they could deliver them.
Dr Leitner then failed to pay back the loan to the leasing company.
The court heard that The Insolvency Service was brought in to carry out investigations but throughout Leitner was uncooperative.
They discovered that Leitner submitted £43,412 worth of false VAT returns, while laundering the proceeds of one of these through an offshore account in Mauritius.
Jailing Leitner for four-and-a- half years, Judge Stephen Everett said that despite being ‘a well respected academic’ she ‘set up a web of deceit’ and ‘there was sophistication and a lot of planning over a sustained period of time’.