Shropshire man jailed for £1.9 m cheque fraud after plea agreement
A former Shropshire hotel manager has been jailed for five years after defrauding almost £2 million from businesses using invalid cheques.
Christopher Peach, 51, from Ellesmere, entered into a plea agreement with the Crown prior to being charged with 18 counts of fraud and one of money laundering between October 2016 and November 2019.
Peach admitted submitting a large number of cheques to a range of companies including stockbrokers, investment and money transfer firms, but the cheques were invalid due to having been drawn on closed accounts or accounts which contained insufficient funds. Peach would claim a ‘refund’ or carry out further transactions prior to the cheque being rejected unpaid. He lied repeatedly about the source of his supposed funds (e.g. claiming significant success as a published author) and forged supporting documents.
Peach attempted to use proceeds of his fraudulent activities to buy the Black Lion in Ellesmere, Shropshire, a hotel which he managed, instructing various firms of solicitors to conduct the conveyancing. The purchase did not complete after the cheque he sent to the solicitors bounced.
Christopher Peach was made the subject of a 10-year Bankruptcy Restriction Order in 2014. In June 2015, he changed his name by Deed Poll to Christopher Hill and all but one of the offences were committed using that name, allowing Peach to circumvent due diligence checks.
According to the Attorney General’s guidelines, plea agreements can be used in cases of serious or complex fraud where certain criteria are met. In this case the value of the fraud was over £500,000 and it involved a fraud against numerous victims. The legislation allows prosecutors to discuss an allegation of serious fraud with a person (or their legal representative) before charges are brought, including the possibility of reaching an agreement about acceptable pleas. This assists in narrowing down the issues in a case with a view to reaching a just outcome at the earliest possible time.
Peach was jailed for five years at Shrewsbury Crown Court on 4 December.
Hannah Carter, Specialist Prosecutor from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “Christopher Peach’s victims were manipulated with a series of lies and the fact that he targeted institutions does not lessen the seriousness of his crimes.
“The stolen funds amounted to almost £2 million showing just how prolific Peach was. He had no regard for the law, even lying about his bankruptcy order to facilitate his crimes.
“The use of the plea agreement meant that we were able to achieve an early resolution on this case of complex fraud, keeping legal process to the minimum required for a fair and just outcome and benefiting the victims.
“The CPS is absolutely committed to working with the police to root out those who commit fraud and make sure they face justice.”
The CPS Proceeds of Crime Division will seek to confiscate any assets that Peach gained from his criminal enterprise.
Notes to editors
- Hannah Carter is a Specialist Prosecutor for the CPS Serious Economic Organised and International Directorate (SEOCID)
- Christopher Peach (DOB: 12/05/72) entered into a plea agreement relating to 18 counts of fraud and 1 of money laundering between October 2016 and November 2019 and was sentenced to five years
- Read the Attorney General's guidelines for prosecutors on plea discussions and presenting a plea agreement to the court in serious fraud cases.