Fraudster diverted council boss's pay into girlfriend's account, court hears (From Stourbridge News)
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Fraudster diverted council boss's pay into girlfriend's account, court hears
9:00am Thursday 23rd August 2012 in Local
A BRAZEN conman diverted his council chief executive’s wages into his Brierley Hill girlfriend’s bank account so he could live the high life.
Within days of starting work at Solihull Council’s payroll department Stuart Southwick, from Halesowen, paid the salaries of his chief executive and a retiring employee into Samantha Mason’s account.
After £19,722 cleared, she withdrew it on the same day and Southwick splashed out on a second-hand Porsche Boxster, a new phone, laptop and trips to London and Alton Towers.
Law graduate Southwick, aged 26, of Blackberry Lane, was employed on a two-week contract in May as an agency worker and immediately gained the trust of a co-worker and used her log in and password details to wreak havoc.
Downing a bottle of wine before work, raging alcoholic Southwick admitted to “not thinking straight” and left his job the day before payday when his victims noticed the money was not in their accounts.
His council paymasters quickly spotted the fraud but he disappeared on his spending spree.
The police only found him after seeing him swanning around in his £8,000 Porsche in Brierley Hill and then tracked him down to his girlfriend’s nearby address.
Warwick Crown Court heard Southwick had told his girlfriend a pack of lies throughout the fraud and she had been an innocent party.
He admitted fraud, plus driving without insurance or a licence at the court last week.
Jailing Southwick for 14 months Recorder Richard Bond said: “I conclude that once you had arrived at the council you immediately decided to commit fraud, and you were only able to do that because of the trust placed in you.
“It is an aggravating feature that the first details were changed while you were using the log-in details of another employee; and suspicion would immediately fall on that lady because it was her password that was used.”
He added: “You went on a spending spree and bought yourself a Porsche Boxter for about £8,000 and you were arrested driving that vehicle onto the driveway of Miss Mason’s address.”
Southwick had claimed he had a moment of clarity after changing the bank details and tried to reverse the transaction, however, this did not stop him blowing the cash when it transferred.
He also plastered pictures of his Porsche across his Facebook site and boasted about his high rolling exploits.
Investigating officer PC Christopher Ainslie, from Solihull Police, said: "Southwick wasted no time in plotting his fraud, almost within minutes of being given password access to the HR systems he was altering bank account numbers.
"He deliberately targeted staff he knew were due to receive sizeable sums in their May pay packet and diverted money into his girlfriend's account after convincing her that his bank account was blocked.”
He added: "We were able to seize the £8,000 Porsche under the Proceeds of Crime Act. This will be sold with the money going towards local initiatives in our communities."
A spokesman for Solihull Council said: "Mr Southwick was an agency employee who worked for the council for just seven days. His fraud was spotted immediately and reported to the police. The money is being recovered from the agency."