A CROOKED businessman has been jailed after he stole more than £600,000 from creditors as the construction firm he worked for was about to collapse.
A court heard creditors were owed £1m after Leeds-based Western Civil Engineers Ltd went into liquidation shortly after Trevor Gaughan began siphoning off money from the company as the credit crunch began to bite.
Gaughan, who prosecutors said was acting as a ‘shadow director’, transferred huge sums from the company’s account to another firm he helped set up called Western Civil Engineers (Recruitment).
Katherine Robinson, prosecuting, said the newly created company did not trade in its own right. The only money that went through its account was £612,000 in 12 different transactions during a five-week period in late 2009.
The cash from that account was then “filtered” into other businesses with which Gaughan had direct links. One firm, called Western Structures Ltd, was registered to his home address.
The court heard Gaughan also invested more than £200,000 of the stolen money into other companies for his own benefit.
Gaughan, of Holly Way, Killingbeck, Leeds, was jailed for three years and seven months yesterday after he pleaded guilty to theft. At the time of the illegal transactions, Gaughan, whose company T Gaughan Civil Engineers, based in Rothwell, Leeds, went bust in 2007 owing more than £800,000, was subject to a five-year disqualification from being a director or from being involved in the running of a company.
The offences came to light in February 2010 when a company was called in to try and satisfy creditors.
Jailing Gaughan, Judge Penelope Belcher said: “It was deliberately calculated - significant sums of money - designed to ensure that you and yours were all right when others were not.
“You should have been man enough to face up to the possibility, as many others in this country have to, that you might have been out of work.
“You would still have had your freedom, your honesty, and your ability to work.
“As a result of what you have done, you have lost them.”
Jamie Hamilton, mitigating, handed the judge a large number of character references from friends, family, his current employers and the priest at his local church.
Mr Hamilton described his client as a hard-working family man.
He said he was still working in the construction industry and was trusted by his employer.