Man who conned Merseyside company out of £6.7m ordered to pay back just £69,000

Jame Hall was jailed for six years for four counts of fraud at the family-run Knowsley business.

An accountant who conned a family-run Merseyside business out of a staggering £6.7 million has been ordered to pay back just £69,000.

James Hall, 49, initially claimed the mammoth transactions he made to his own bank to fund his gambling addiction were loans from the director of Knowsley firm Vale UK.

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But the fraud, which took place between 2011 and 2015, came to light following an audit of the Prescot based shopfitting company, which works with retailers like the Co-Op.

In 2012, Hall asked to borrow £250,000 from the firm’s fund to do work on his own house so he could sell it. But from then on he started to take more with permission.

Hall, who was on a salary of £81,000 at the Merseyside firm and had worked there since leaving university, was confronted in 2015 after irregularities were identified.

James Hall, 49, had worked at the Knowsley company since leaving university. Image: SWNS

He told his bosses that he took the money to bet on the Stock Exchange because he “wanted security for his wife and children.”

But despite stealing millions, Hall “thought it was ridiculous” when he was fired by the company, the court heard.

Fiona McNeill, prosecuting said that company director Peter Henerty saw Hall as a “brother”.

She said: “He couldn’t believe the defendant acted in the way he did, he was a trusted employee.”

Andrew Nutall, defending, said that his client was suffering from a gambling addiction and was “shocked” to find out he had been dismissed from the company.

He said: “He seems to have thought himself rather like Prof Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candid, everything will turn out for the best.

“That was his thinking, but it hasn’t and he must pay the piper.”

Hall, of Bolton, admitted to four counts of fraud from the company and was jailed for six years.

Judge Tom Gilbart told Hall: “Until you decided to involve yourself in this you were a man of impeccable character, a history of good work, a family and a good standard of living and you had a good circle of friends, you had a job that rewarded your intelligence.

“This was extremely serious criminality, you were given a position of trust by this company.”

Detective Constable Claire Taylor of Merseyside Police said after sentencing: “This fraud placed a family-run business under significant financial pressure, causing distress and worry to all employees and their loved ones.

“That such an impact would be caused was clearly lost on Hall, and he will now be left to consider the full consequences of his actions while he serves his jail time.

“We welcome that, following an extensive and complex police investigation, Hall is now behind bars.”

During his subsequent proceeds of crime hearing, the court heard how Vale UK was forced to spend £50,000 taking action to clear up the damage made by Hall.

But Nicola Daley, prosecuting, said it had been agreed that Hall only had available £69,164.50 which could be repaid.

Recorder Simon Hilton instructed Hall to repay the sum within three months.