Businessman avoids jail after promising to pay back over �170,000

A FRAUDSTER has been spared prison after convincing a judge he will pay back more than �170,000.

Graham Slade, aged 45, previously admitted three counts of fraud when he appeared at Bristol Crown Court and was given until Tuesday to prove he would pay back the money, or face jail.

The court ultimatum came after his reputation as a successful businessman in the property sector was left in ruins when he ran into difficulty during the recession.

Slade wound up bankrupt and owing Robert Walsh about �173,000 after helping himself to money from various business deals in 2009 and the beginning of 2010. They involved buying and selling houses and a set of stables in Banwell.

He pocketed �50,000 from one sale which belonged to Walsh, by telling him the money had never been transferred to him.

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The court was told this week he would be able to pay back the money at �1,000 per month. It will take more than 14 years at that rate.

Slade, of Peartree Gardens, Bleadon, was handed an eight-month suspended sentence for two years.

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He will also have to carry out 200 hours’ unpaid community work over the next 12 months, as well as pay back the money he owes.

Giles Nelson, mitigating, said Slade has set up two new businesses in recent months.

He said: “He isn’t a con man at all. He has succeeded in business before and he intends to succeed again.

“He has a better chance of paying back some or the entirety of the money to Mr Walsh if he is at work rather than in prison.”

Judge Carol Hagen said Slade had done the wrong thing by deceiving those he had taken money from and said if he had denied the offence and been found guilty, he could have faced up to three years in prison.

She said: “I have been given evidence that he had repaid debts to others not in this case, and was then in a position to pay some, if not all the loss to the victim.”

Addressing him, she added: “You had the good sense to plead guilty. But you committed wrongdoing in trying to pretend you could pay him when obviously you could not.

“You were a successful businessman and the time of financial difficulty hit you like everyone else. But you have two businesses which are making a profit, albeit a small one.

“I’m satisfied that the frauds you perpetrated were not fraudulent from the outset.”

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