How a Leeds accountant fleeced ITV out of £140,000

Darren Smith, 38, who has been jailed three-and-a-half years after he invented a bogus company to con ITV
Darren Smith, 38, who has been jailed three-and-a-half years after he invented a bogus company to con ITV
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A finance manager, who was deeply in debt, defrauded ITV of more than £140,000 by paying out on false invoices for work that was never done.

Darren Smith was able to carry out the deception because he was in a trusted position as finance manager for Yorkshire, Tyne Tees and Border Television regions and was able to use his knowledge of the company’s accounting system before his dishonesty was uncovered in 2009.

Leeds Crown Court heard yesterday he arranged for the money to be paid through the bank account of Steven Marsden, a former tenant in one of his properties.

Eleven fictitious invoices totalling £54,750 related to a company in Marsden’s name, allegedly supplying training services and camera hire between November 2007 and March 1.2009.

Ian Mullarkey prosecuting said the other 18 invoices totalling £87,210 were paid to a completely bogus company, Yorkshire Independent Productions, with whom Smith created a false contract.

He told the court Smith started working for Yorkshire Television in 1999 initially in its newsroom but progressed to a supervisor and management position, at first able to authorise payments up to £10,000 and later after a restructuring in June 2008 that was limited to £5,000.

Mr Mullarkey said it was noticeable the fictitious invoices reflected those changes in the amounts claimed , initially they were mainly for £6-7,000 but reduced after the changes and they used codes known only to staff. On each occasion the invoices had gone direct to Smith either at Kirkstall Road, Leeds or to Carlisle.

After the dishonesty was discovered and his home was searched documents relating to the fictitious company and Smith’s “vast” debts of £805,000 were found, including £46,000 on credit cards. He had changed his mortgage repayments to interest only but his £6,800 outgoings were still in excess of £4,900 a month salary.

Alison Dorrell for Smith said he was a bright man who was not going to find prison easy having “lost his good character in spectacular fashion.”

She said the dishonesty was not to fund a lavish lifestyle but he was struggling to “make ends meet” because of the financial commitments he had taken on.

Smith, 35 of Cornwall Street, Leeds who admitted two charges of conspiracy to defraud and acquiring criminal property was jailed for three and a half years.

Marsden, 48 of Bury Old Road, Prestwich, Manchester, who admitted the same charges and distributing criminal property was jailed for two years.

Judge James Spencer QC told Smith the case involved a serious breach of trust.

“You have had quite a difficult time not least because of the extent of your debts all of that of course is your own fault and no one else’s responsibility, certainly not the responsibility of your employer who over this protracted period you set out to defraud of large sums of money.”

“This was a repeated act of criminality, not only did you go to the extent of recruiting, Mr Marsden so he was compliant and was the trusted recipient who would return the cash to you, but you sent several false invoices and then made up a fictitious company and put through false invoices in respect of that.”

Mark Friend for Marsden said he was a homeless drug addict when he began living in one of Smith’s properties and became involved in the scheme.