A CROOKED bookkeeper who has clocked up almost £300,000 worth of frauds over the last 15 years is back behind bars after tricking a couple out of their retirement pot to fund his gambling and high-living.
A judge heard the stress caused by former Rugby man Andrew Brough’s callous fraud has contributed to the break-down of the couple’s marriage.
Brough, 49, who lived in Rugby, but now of Eaves Street, Blackpool, was jailed for sentences totalling six-and-a-half years after pleading guilty at Warwick Crown Court to three charges of fraud.
Prosecutor Michael Williams said Brough’s main victims were a couple who had invested in seven properties which they rented out.
Brough, who already had a number of convictions for dishonesty, started looking after the couple’s books.
In November 2010, the wife gave him £5,000 to invest on her behalf.
Over the next three years more money was entrusted to him, including £92,000 from the couple’s property business and £29,000 of their own money – with the aim of using the proceeds to pay off mortgages and build up a retirement pot.
But the couple became concerned in 2013 when they wanted to withdraw some of the money, and Brough repeatedly tried to dissuade them, claiming they would lose out because of high penalty figures for early withdrawal.
When he could not stall them any longer, Brough got in touch with Action Fraud, claiming he had been the victim of a fraud by a company called Elite Investments with whom he claimed to have invested his victims’ money.
And Brough, branded ‘an inveterate fraudster’ by a Judge at Coventry Crown Court in 2002, maintained that story when he was arrested and questioned by the police in May last year.
In fact, most of the money had gone on gambling and to pay for luxury holidays to destinations including Barbados, Egypt, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus.
“It is very difficult for me to overestimate the impact this has had on the complainants. These were people approaching the end of their working careers, and now money they had worked hard for to put aside for their pensions has simply gone.
“I don’t say it’s the sole cause of it, but the couple are no longer together, and [the husband] has lost his job because he was taking so much time off for stress,” said Mr Williams.
Brough’s previous convictions included thefts from employers, fraud, forgery and false accounting – and Judge Andrew Lockhart QC commented: “In the 2000s he stole nearly £300,000.
“It is remarkable that he can get jobs as a bookkeeper, and there’s nowhere one can find a background check.”
Mr Williams said Brough’s benefit from his latest frauds was £134,000 – but his available assets amount to only £23,750.
Judge Lockhart ordered that amount to be confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act and used to pay compensation, with Brough facing a further three years in jail in default of payment within 28 days.
Simon Hunka, defending, said that when he started working for the couple, Brough was not gambling, but a number of things happened in his life which created a stressful situation and, as he had done before, he returned to gambling.
Of the grip gambling had over Brough, Mr Hunka said: “He was present at the birth of both his children, but cannot equate that exhilaration with the exhilaration of his number coming up at a roulette table.”
Jailing Brough, Judge Lockhart told him: “Throughout your life you have wreaked untold misery on a large number of people. You have been a thief throughout the course of your whole career.
“This offending has had a huge impact on three people, two of whom were making proper and prudent provisions for their retirement; and it is with great sadness that the court hears they have separated.
“Only a long custodial sentence can be justified, and there must be consecutive sentences for each offence.”