Man jailed for stealing over £270,000 from his employer - Tring

27/09/2016

A Director of a long-established Hertfordshire insurance brokers, who stole from the company accounts to pay for his gambling addiction, was jailed for four years today, Tuesday, 27 September 2016.

Stephen Fox, aged 49, stole £273,000 from SJ Stottart of Tring while its founder was dying of cancer. His thieving put the company into liquidation, left customers without car, home and medical insurance and has forced Stephen Stottart's widow to sell the family home.

In a victim personal statement, Mr Stottart's widow told Luton Crown Court: "He was stealing when my adored husband was ill and even after his death. Stephen Fox destroyed everything my husband worked for over 40-years, including the company's name and reputation. It was a massive betrayal by someone who we treated as a member of the family. The business was pillaged. I am left with nothing."

When Mr Stottart died, aged 66, Fox even requested his death certificate which allowed him to access Santander bonds that the company used as an emergency cash reserve.

Fox of Standring Rise, Hemel pleaded guilty to the theft of £273,774.51p between 7 October 2014 and 6 August 2015. He was of previous good character.

Daniel Siong, prosecuting for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "The defendant was in an extremely high position of trust. Over 10-months he used the company's online banking system to transfer funds from two business accounts into his own bank accounts." He said Fox had started work for SJ Stottart in 1988 and in 1996 became a Director. In June 2014 Mr Stottart was diagnosed with cancer and whilst receiving treatment and being gravely ill Fox was in sole in charge of the company. In April and May last year Mr Stottart's son returned from Australia and queried amounts that had been taken out of the account by Fox. Fox estimated the amount he had taken from the company at between £80,000 and £90,000 - a gross underestimate, said Mr Siong. He said the prosecution had obtained a statement from the company BET 365 which showed he had deposited a total of £347,224 with them.

Defending, Alex Britton handed the Judge a Land Registry charge form against Fox's home. He said his best mitigation was Fox's guilty plea. "He is deeply ashamed by his actions," said Mr Britton. Mr Britton said Fox's mental health had been declining as he suffered from anxiety and depression. By the summer of 2014 he was drinking alcohol first thing in the morning. Whilst drinking he would gamble. The amount of gambling was phenomenal. It was a complete addiction. Everything he won he then gambled. At the end of the day he was left with nothing.

Jailing him, Judge Lynn Tayton QC said: "All the thefts occurred when Mr Stottart was gravely ill and dying and even after his death. It appeared Mr Stottart had complete faith in you to run the business. He had supported you and had supported your career. It was a blatant and cynical betrayal of the family's trust."

Please note - all court copies are provided by South Beds News Agency, who retain the copyright for all articles published.