A COMPANY boss who stole £400,000 from his employers has been jailed.
A court heard that Colin Fell, of Knowsley Drive, Leigh, used the cash to renovate a farm house and put his children through private school.
The 53-year-old used an elaborate scheme creating fake companies and charging the firm that employed him, Norpe, for work that was never done by the bogus suppliers.
So much money was stolen, it limited Norpe’s profitability and workers were made redundant as a result.
Fell pleaded guilty to seven counts of theft at an earlier hearing and returned to Manchester Crown Court to be jailed for four and a half years. He was also disqualified from being a company director for seven years.
Fell has previously been jailed for 42 months for his part in a £1m fraud in the mid to late 1980s.
He began working for Norpe UK in Stockport, the UK subsidiary of Scandinavian refrigeration company Norpe, in 1996 and was in a position of trust as managing director.
The hearing was told that from 2002, Fell abused his position by setting up companies and invoicing Norpe for products and services that were non-existent.
These fake services included technical support, public relations campaigns and trade exhibition services.
While Fell was profiting from his ill-gotten gains, he bought a farmhouse and renovated it for his family to live in - the grounds of which included stables and horses.
He also took his family on regular expensive holidays, put his children into private schools and enjoyed a generally high standard of living.
Meanwhile, the thefts greatly hindered the profit-making capabilities of Norpe UK which led to more and more stringent cost cutting and ultimately led to the majority of the staff being made redundant.
Norpe’s international financial director brought in a forensic accountant in November 2006 after receiving complaints about the management of its UK branch and identifying some irregularities with suppliers.
Fell was immediately suspended and the accountants discovered a number of forged and falsified invoices.
The matter was reported topolice in October 2007 and the Serious Crime Division’s Commercial Fraud Unit launched an investigation.
It took the inquiry team until February 2010 to get to a stage where they were able to arrest Fell due to the complexities involved in the theft of the money.
Fell failed to accept any responsibility for his actions during a series of interviews and maintained his innocence until he pleaded guilty to seven counts of theft on the first day of his trial in June 2011.
Det Con Craig Moylan, based at GMP’s Commercial Fraud Unit, said: “With the parent company based thousands of miles away in Finland, Fell’s role was based entirely on trust. Most people would take great satisfaction from holding such a position and relish the challenge.
“Instead, Fell helped himself to thousands of pounds by deceiving the system that the firm was paying for an elaborate array of services, lived a life of luxury as a result and, meanwhile, other ordinary people trying to make a living were left jobless as the firm went through stringent cost-cutting measures to off-set the missing money.
“Along with a well-deserved conviction, Fell will now lose the wealth he made through stealing as officers from Greater Manchester Police ensure criminals are stripped of their ill-gotten gains through the Proceeds of Crime Act and he will emerge from his sentence to a very different lifestyle.
“All of this should leave the firm, and all the people whose lives were affected by Fell’s greed, feeling that justice has been done.”