A Wearside dad who stole more than £41,000 from his employer is today behind bars.
Graeme Chapman, 52, from Broadmayne Avenue in Sunderland, was jailed for two years and nine months after pleading guilty to fraud by abuse of his position and failing to surrender.
Chris Baker, prosecuting, told Durham Crown Court that Chapman had stolen a total of £41,404.26 from his employer Karl Smith who owns clothing supply business Devilwear Ltd, based in Peterlee.
A holiday to New York was one of the things Chapman used the money for.
The court heard Chapman should have appeared in court back in April but was discovered in Scotland having been reported missing by his family.
Chapman was employed by the company in March 2015 as a financial officer after promising he would be able to grow the company turnover and profit.
He was trusted with internet banking for the company and had sole control of the company finances.
Mr Baker said: “He started out impressively, installing new software and becoming popular with colleagues, but in May 2015 suppliers contacted the firm complaining about payments not being made for deliveries.
“When asked about this, Chapman assured Mr Smith that there was nothing to worry about and that delaying payments benefited the business.
“But the complaints started to increase and the defendant became unreliable as more time went on, asking for days off at short notice and ringing in sick.”
The court heard that as a result, Mr Smith decided to sack Chapman, who left the business on September 2 last year.
But on September 15, Mr Smith checked the company bank accounts and saw that payments that should have been made to bona fide companies, had instead been made to another account, which Chapman controlled.
Mr Baker said: “The accounts were controlled by the defendant, he had set up two accounts, a NatWest account and a Santander account. “Between the period of April 2015 to August 21015 he had made 54 payments from the company account into those two accounts controlled by him.
“He had removed from the company £41,404.26p and disguised the transactions as genuine companies, such as the supplier Levi’s.”
The court heard that Chapman’s actions had ‘irreparably’ damaged the businesses reputation, meaning that suppliers would no longer give them credit; the firm lost 40% of its profits between Christmas 2014 and Christmas 2015; thousands of pounds were owed in missed direct debits and tax returns and four members of staff had their hours cut.
Mr Baker added: “All of the money had been removed from his bank account and spent. This included the purchase of a holiday to New York.”
Stephen Constantine, defending, said Chapman had fallen into financial difficulty back in 2008 after being made redundant.
He said Chapman had numerous debts and bailiffs had visited his home, but despite gaining employment he fell into depression.
Mr Constantine added: “He is of good character and had expressed a desire to pay back the sum he obtained by fraud.”
Judge Simon Hickey said: “This was a planned, sophisticated and organised way of stealing a great deal of money from this man. “He spent 10 years building up this business and you caused irreparable damage.
“All the money has been removed and there were purchases that amounted to ‘high living’.
“It is clear that you have suffered from depression as far back as 2008, but you acted quite deliberately.”