JAILED: Fraudster abused ‘position of trust’ to steal £17k from his employer

Mark Priestley. Picture: Avon and Somerset Constabulary

Mark Priestley. Picture: Avon and Somerset Constabulary - Credit: Archant

A debt-stricken man who doctored invoices to swindle his employer of thousands of pounds has been jailed.

Mark Priestley, of Summer Lane in Banwell, was handed a 16-month prison sentence after stealing almost £17,000 in a bid to cover debts racked up by him and his wife.

The 53-year-old, who was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on February 14, admitted altering genuine invoices and creating fake ones to illicitly take cash from his employer – RHC Lifting in Yate – in the 12 months preceding January 2018.

The court heard Priestley was sales manager for the equipment provider since 2016, but abused his ‘position of trust’ to steal money after feeling ‘guilty’ over the couple’s money problems.

His wife ran a B&B in Weston, but when she met Priestley she sold up and bought Myrtle Farm, a campsite in Summer Lane which they ran together while her husband also held his full-time job.

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But when they bought the property using a substantial mortgage, they found a series of costly faults which needed repairing and were forced to remortgage – plunging the pair into debt.

Priestley was involved in the business, but all the capital was put up by his wife – and through ‘guilt’ he chose to con his employer.

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Giles Tippett, defending, told of his client’s history of debt problems which prompted a series of run-ins with the law for stealing from his employer, and said Priestley ‘reverted to type’.

Matthew Jackson, prosecuting, said: “False invoices were generated by Priestley. An example was an email sent where he requested an invoice was sent as a Word document, presumably so he could make changes.

“It all came apart when a suspicious payment was found, and his employer started an internal investigation in January last year when he was confronted with this information and suspended.”

Priestley pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud, and the money stolen has since been paid back by his wife.

In sentencing him, Judge Euan Ambrose said: “You were paid money you were not entitled to – just under £17,000.

“You were in a position of trust and there was a degree of sophistication involved, creating false invoices and amending genuine ones.

“The most important thing is your character. You have a bad record for similar offences.

“The stolen money was repaid, but it is tempered by the fact it was not you who paid. You have not paid your way out of trouble.

“This offence is so serious that only an immediate prison sentence can be justified.”

Mr Tippett, mitigating, said: “There is no inclination of any damage to the firm. It continues to trade.

“There is an element of guilt here by Priestley that things are going wrong that are not his fault. He has not been able to put up capital himself and unfortunately resulted in him stealing.”

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