CHESTERFIELD: Fraudster jailed over £84,500 scam

Picture: Victoria Wilcox''Latest Derby Crown Court file picture - gv
Picture: Victoria Wilcox''Latest Derby Crown Court file picture - gv

A FORMER credit controller was sentenced to 18 months in jail for fiddling his Chesterfield firm out of £84,500.

Derby Crown Court heard that Graham Watts joined Avantigas in December, 2000, and discrepancies came to light 12 years later.

Checks revealed that refunds claimed by other companies went into a Chesterfield bank account held by Watts, 37, of Almond Crescent, Mastin Moor.

He was promoted to credit controller in December, 2010, and signed for refunds - but the finance director also had to authorise them, said Esther Harrison, prosecuting at Derby Crown Court.

The court heard how when an £8,000 discrepancy was spotted, the director began to make enquiries and found she had not signed off the paperwork.

Miss Harrison said: “He admitted forging signatures and accepted the forms were fraudulent.”

In just over two years, £71,223 went into his bank account, according to the court.

Watts also had a company credit card to cover his business expenses but used this for personal items totalling £13,307, said Miss Harrison.

She added: “He used the card mainly for products from Amazon, for electrical items and to pay for car insurance. He used it for a holiday to Center Parcs.”

Watts, who was earning £25,245 annually, pleaded guilty to 15 counts of fraud by making false representation to make a gain.

Roger Wilson, defending, told the court that Watts had never been in trouble before and admitted the offences immediately.

He said: “He made the telling comment in one interview, that this was a weight off his mind, and he made a full confession.

“He had spiralling debts and was robbing Peter to pay Paul. He is genuinely sorry and remorseful. He found it extremely difficult to stop and put an end to it.

“It went on far too long and he is bitterly ashamed.”

Mr Wilson also told the court that Watts was suffering from “anxiety and depression and would find prison very difficult”.

Recorder Richard Swain told Watts: ”You were in a position of trust. For two years you continuously abused your position and defrauded your employer of considerable sums of money.

“You used the debit card to pay for luxuries. It is said your finances spiralled out of control.

“There can be no excuses for it.

“You recognise you let everybody down and let yourself down as well.”

Action will be taken through the courts to claw back some of the cash.