THE financial director at an international cookware firm who used more than £200,000 of the company’s funds to pay off his credit card debts has been jailed for 26 months.
A judge told Simon Crowther, of Edinburgh Way, Queen’s Park, Chester, yesterday: “You treated the company finances as your own to take – and that’s what you did."
Crowther had been using the company's credit card, including taking his wife on a trip to New York, as well as setting up a bogus account using the firm’s money to pay off his wife’s credit card for at least 10 years.
Liverpool Crown Court heard Crowther, 58, had been financial director of the globally renowned Meyer Group, which has its headquarters on the Wirral.
He was highly trusted and was earning £80,000 a year by September 2011, having been in that role for almost 20 years, when he was given long-term compassionate leave to care for his terminally ill wife.
He was eventually given an early retirement package in April 2012 of more than £100,000 and a flexible consultancy role at £395 a day, said Andrew Ford.
But his successor found “financial irregularities and anomalies in the books and noticed significant items of personal expenditure” totalling £27,000.
These included cash withdrawals from cash points and other expenditure consistent with travel – but his job was office based.
They had been described as sundry expenditure which took it “below the radar”.
Mr Ford said Crowther had pleaded guilty to two offences involving obtaining property by deception and a charge of obtaining a money transfer by deception. The second offence related to an account Crowther had set up purporting to be a health insurance scheme and payments were described as to ‘Capital’ but in fact he had been writing cheques on it and altering them to read Capital One to pay off his wife’s credit card.
The total amount paid out over 10 years was found to be £215,659, said Mr Ford, but he pointed out the records only went back 10 years.
When Crowther was contacted he initially claimed it was down to administrative errors and mistakes and only came clean when the Capital One fraud was uncovered.
He later wrote a letter saying that money in excess of his salary had been spent on alcohol and cigarettes.
Crowther’s wife, with whom he had five children, died in March 2012.
Their house, valued at £640,000, has been put up for sale and although its price had been reduced it has still not been sold.
Meyer Group had meanwhile obtained a county court judgment against Crowther for almost £400,000 and his assets had been frozen, said Mr Ford.
Judge Norman Wright told Crowther: “These are, by any stretch of the imagination, extremely large sums of money.
“You were the financial director of the UK arm and therefore effectively you controlled the company purse strings.
“You treated the company finances as your own to take and that’s what you did.”
He banned him from being a company director for 12 years.
Peter Barnett, defending, said Crowther was suffering from ill health including two kidney tumours and a rare blood disorder.
He had suffered “a great fall from grace”, declared himself bankrupt and was now living on state benefits in a council property.