A former ITV finance manager who invented a bogus company to con the broadcaster out of more than £140,000 has today been jailed for three-and-a-half years.
Darren Smith, 38, of Leeds, signed off fake invoices worth up to £7,000 each while working for ITV Yorkshire, Tyne Tees and Border.
He recruited recovering drug addict Steven Marsden, 48, to pose as a contractor and bank the fraudulent payments.
Marsden, who was sentenced alongside Smith, was jailed for two years.
Leeds Crown Court heard how ITV inadvertently paid Marsden around £54,000 for camera and training work and £87,000 to a fictitious production company over a two-year period.
Ian Mullarkey, prosecuting, said Smith was trusted to handle multimillion-pound budgets as part of his £58,000-a-year job.
He said: “He was exploiting his knowledge of the internal workings of the accountancy system at ITV and paying for services which had never even been provided.”
The father-of-two, who had “vast personal debts” of £805,000 largely through property investments, was eventually found out by his employer.
He initially denied knowing Marsden, of Prestwich, Manchester. But records uncovered during investigations proved they were linked.
Both men pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to defraud and one of acquiring criminal property. Marsden also admitted distributing the proceeds.
In mitigation, the court heard that Smith did not lead a particularly extravagant lifestyle and was struggling to keep up with his debts as his monthly repayments were more than he earned.
Marsden, who pleaded guilty at an early stage in the proceedings, had faced homelessness and kicked a long-standing class A drug habit around a year ago.
Judge James Spencer QC told Smith: “This was a repeated act of criminality.
“Not only did you have to go to the extent of recruiting Mr Marsden but you sent several false invoices and then you made a fictitious company and put through invoices in respect to that.
“The most severe aspect of your case is the breach of trust involved and the amounts involved.”
Turning his attention to Marsden, Judge Spencer told him: “You were a ready participant in these frauds. It could not have worked without you.”
Proceeds of crime hearings are due to be held next summer.