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A company accountant who stole more than £250,000 to spend on prostitutes, hotel stays and luxury electronic goods has been jailed for three years.

Darren Parker, 43, began his calculated theft immediately after he started working for water company Stortec Engineering Ltd as their financial controller in 2018.

He was discovered two years later while on holiday when a colleague found payments to Amazon River Island as well as for hotel stays, iPhones and laptops.

Following his arrest, Parker pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud.

The married man of nine years told Preston Crown Court that he had suffered a breakdown and begun seeing prostitutes for company and not to seek sexual gratification.

Darren Parker, 43, has been jailed for three years after stealing more than £250,000 to spend on prostitutes, hotel stays and luxury electronic goods

Darren Parker, 43, has been jailed for three years after stealing more than £250,000 to spend on prostitutes, hotel stays and luxury electronic goods

As a result of Parker’s crimes, Stortec had to unpick its accounts and take out a loan as well as make several redundancies.

At his sentence hearing, Recorder Carwyn Cox told Parker: ‘This was a catastrophic fall for you. You left school at 16 and have worked in finance ever since and have been married for nine years.

‘Since this offending, you no longer work in finance and never will again. You used this money to fund your lifestyle, to a total sum of just over £250,000. The impact on Stortec is considerable.’

A spokesperson for Stortec said Parker’s theft couldn’t have come at a ‘worse time’ for the business as it battled to stay afloat amid the looming Covid-19 pandemic.

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They said: ‘He had manipulated the bank and finance software to remove peer checking of payments, such that it took over two years for us to uncover the facts.

‘This could not have come at a worse time, as we uncovered this fraud in the middle of the COVID pandemic when business conditions were already extremely challenging for a start-up business operating as a Key Supplier to the water and renewable energy sectors.

‘The disruption to our business from the theft and the extent of Mr Parker’s covering deceptions cannot be underestimated.

‘Unfortunately, it was necessary to make redundancies due to a financial position that could not be supported by fact once the extent of the thefts became clear.’

The court heard how Parker made numerous considerable financial transfers to his bank accounts between 2018 and 2020.

Recorder Cox said: ‘You were employed as a financial controller for Stortec and then became the financial director and had control over all aspects of the company, and set yourself up as a superuser on the banking app of the company.

‘A colleague became suspicious of your actions when you wouldn’t provide her with information and then during lockdown you were working from home which meant you were alone.

‘In August 2020 your activity was discovered when you went on holiday as payments hadn’t been made and your colleague found some raised payments to yourself.

‘She also found payments to Amazon, Argos and River Island, as well as payments to HM Revenue and Customs, and the company credit card was linked to your Amazon account.

‘You also withdrew cash and used the company account for work on your home as well as for hotel stays, iPhones and laptops.’

Parker had finally confessed on August 24, 2020, and was arrested a few months later. 

Mr Cox continued: ‘Your explanation is that you suffered a breakdown, although you weren’t able to say whether that was work, or home or alcohol, and found yourself depressed.

‘You found yourself in the company of prostitutes, but you were not seeking sexual gratification, only company.

‘You wanted to be liked and then you started paying for hotels and used funds from the company after you had exhausted all your savings.

‘Then those women began demanding goods, and homes in Spain to be purchased.. You wanted to go to the police but you didn’t.

‘You attempted suicide but have been able to rebuild your relationship with your wife.’

A Stortec spokesperson thanked Lancashire Police and CPS for pursuing the fraud case following the hearing.

They added: ‘It is now apparent to us Parker is a proficient fraudster whose deception was sufficient to pass two external finance audits as well as the internal board.

‘We are confident Lancashire businesses are much safer now he has been exposed and detained.’

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