Page last updated at 19:09 GMT, Friday, 8 January 2010

'Amnesiac' accountant jailed for 300,000 fraud

Steven Calderbank (Pic: Greater Manchester Police)
Steven Calderbank said he could not remember taking the money

An accountant who defrauded his firm of £310,000 to use for home improvements has been jailed for 26 months.

When Steven Calderbank, 46, of Hallam Road, Nelson, was arrested he claimed he had been struck with amnesia, Burnley Crown Court heard.

He told police he could not recall being employed by Manchester-based Skills Solutions, the court heard.

Calderbank earlier admitted 20 specimen theft charges and asked for 18 others to be taken into consideration.

Doctors found no evidence his "illness" was genuine.

The father-of-three had complete access to the accounts of the not-for-profit organisation, which distributes funding for school and college apprenticeships and has an annual turnover of £10m.

There was no evidence of any financial obligations or debts that may have driven you to commit these offences
Judge Beverley Lunt

Between September 2004 and January 2008, the defendant systematically paid shadow invoices into his own bank account and his deeds were not uncovered until an internal audit.

Hugh McKee, prosecuting, said Calderbank told his wife he was under pressure because of the audit and she demanded he explain how he had funded the £60,000 extension to the house.

Sums of £15,000 each were also spent on a new conservatory and car, the prosecutor added.

He then left a note to his wife telling her he had gone to London.

She reported him to the police as missing and he finally returned six days later when he was arrested.

His wife, who had been seriously ill since 2000 and died last January, was also detained as part of the inquiry before she was released without charge.

When interviewed, Calderbank said he had lost his memory and could not recollect working at Skills Solutions or stealing the money, but he did remember his teenage children growing up.

'Driven by greed'

Mark Stuart, defending, said his client's teacher wife was forced to leave her job because of her illness and the investment into the house by Calderbank may have been a form of "nestbuilding" ahead of when she died.

Calderbank, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was diagnosed as a mild depressive and was the sole carer of his children, who were in court along with his own parents.

He pleaded for either a suspended jail term or a short spell in prison as he said the children had lost their mother, were about to lose their father to prison and faced the sale of the family home as part of a proceeds of crime hearing.

Judge Beverley Lunt said she was sorry for the children but the extent of the theft could only lead to a custodial sentence.

"There was no evidence of any financial obligations or debts that may have driven you to commit these offences. The only thing that has driven you is greed," she said.

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