‘Well-re­spected aca­demic’ woman jailed for com­plex £150,000 fraud

Macclesfield Express - - FRONT PAGE -

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’.

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