Accountant jailed for embezzling

A FORMER chairman of the Suffolk branch of the Association of Accounting Technicians is in jail today after stealing more than £160,000.Michael Lloyd embezzled the money while working for two companies.

A FORMER chairman of the Suffolk branch of the Association of Accounting Technicians is in jail today after stealing more than £160,000.

Michael Lloyd embezzled the money while working for two companies. He used the cash to pay his bills and squandered the rest on trips round the world and "having a nice time", a court heard.

The 45-year-old was yesterday jailed for three years and nine months for what were described as "determined and persistent" thefts over a period of more than three years.

Lloyd admitted 13 specimen charges involving the theft of £59,036 from Lawncourt Harvest, of Leiston, and £106,998 from International Shipping and Trading, of Felixstowe.

He also admitted four charges of false accounting.

It is believed he had already stepped down from his post as Suffolk chairman of the AAT prior to being arrested.

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Passing sentence, Recorder Simon Blackford told Lloyd, of Canada Cottages, Lindsey, near Hadleigh, that the companies had both lost substantial amounts of money as a result of his dishonesty.

He added the directors of both companies had been forced to inject their own money into their businesses and two of the directors had not taken salaries for a year.

Recorder Blackford adjourned the case until January for a hearing to determine the extent of Lloyd's assets and to make confiscation and compensation orders in respect of the losses to his victims.

Peter Gair, prosecuting at Ipswich Crown Court, said Lloyd had worked as a bookkeeper for International Shipping in 2002 before setting himself up in business as a sole trader and providing bookkeeping services for International Shipping and Lawncourt Harvest from 2003.

He added Lloyd had been in a position of trust and responsible for keeping the books of both companies, paying staff salaries and making payments to suppliers.

In that position of trust Lloyd had been given the password to both companies' internet bank accounts, which enabled him to carry out the theft.

He had been arrested after an audit revealed discrepancies at Lawncourt Harvest and Lloyd admitted stealing the money.

Lloyd told police he had used the money to settle his debts and to have some fun, which included travelling abroad a lot.

Crispin Clay, from Lawncourt Harvest, contacted International Shipping and directors spoke to Lloyd in September this year.

He admitted stealing money from the company, but after discussions with the directors it was decided he would do unpaid work for them in return for the police not being involved.

However, later the same day Lloyd had arranged for a further payment of £4,000 to be paid into his account and his dishonesty was reported to the police.

Lloyd later claimed he had taken the last amount of money because he wanted to get drugs to end his life.

Caroline Bryant, mitigating, said after Lloyd had started taking money a substantial period had passed before anyone realised it had been missing.

"Having got away with it, he found taking the money became habitual and compulsive. It happened at a time when he was going through a particularly difficult time in his personal life", she added.

Miss Bryant said Lloyd had asked her to say how sorry he was for the pain he had caused to both companies.

After the case a spokesman for the AAT said: "I'm afraid I cannot comment on the individual case itself. However, the AAT has strong and rigorous disciplinary procedures, and in a situation where a member is convicted we would investigate."

SPEAKING after the case, Crispin and Lucinda Clay, who set up Lawncourt Harvest six years ago, said they had been forced to use thousands of pounds from the sale of their home to keep their business going.

"It could have been curtains for us if we hadn't had that money", said Mr Clay, from Dunwich. "The company went screaming into its overdraft and we had to input £20,000 of our own money into it to keep things running.

"We had just sold our house, so luckily we had the money just sitting in an account. If we had not had that, the situation would have been a lot worse – we would have had to take out a loan, lay people off or borrowed against the house. It could have easily have been the end of the business."

Mr Clay added they had been forced to cut expenditure on plant and machinery and had not had the money to expand the business when they had wanted to.

International Shipping and Trading declined to comment on the case.

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