'˜Â£850,000 of Leeds firm's money gambled away'

AN ACCOUNTANT gambled away more than £850,000 from the company where he was paid to look after the finances.

Saturday, 16th January 2016, 8:04 am
Updated Sunday, 17th January 2016, 7:44 pm
Matthew Stevens. Accountant jailed for three years, four months for stealing £850,000 from his employer and gambling it all.

A court heard Matthew Stevens, 30, abused the trust placed in him by his boss who “treated him like a son” after he took him on as a school leaver and trained him to be a book keeper.

Stevens plundered the firm’s accounts over a 13-month period to fund his addiction to online gambling.

Leeds Crown Court heard Stevens became a key customer of bookies Betfred during his offending.

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The court heard the case has been referred to the Gambling Commission over claims that the firm offered him free bets and days out to go gambling despite racking up huge losses. Stevens was jailed for three years, four months over the deception. The court heard Stevens was employed by business owner Mahmood Mazhar who trained him in accounting and book keeping. He became an in-house accountant for two of Mr Mahmood’s businesses - Core Telecommunications, based in Stanningley, and Norman Bar, on Call Lane, in Leeds city centre.

The court heard Stevens transferred money to his own accounts and covered it up with fictitious transactions.

Martin Robertshaw, prosecuting, said Mr Mahmood first became concerned when creditors began contacting him to say they had not been paid.

The victim was then contacted by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over an unpaid tax bill of £250,000. Stevens continued to lie and faked online documents which he claimed was proof that HMRC had made a mistake. Stevens, of Thorn Grove, Rothwell, pleaded guilty to two offences of theft from employer. John Bachelor, mitigating, said Stevens’s main betting account was with Betfred. The lawyer said Betfred would offer him free bets after he had lost large sums of money.

Recorder Abdul Iqbal, QC, said: “You knew the intimate workings of this business and you must have known the impact of bleeding those bank accounts dry.”

After the case, Mr Mahmood told the YEP: “I feel devastated by what he has done to me. Fortunately both businesses have survived despite this betrayal.”

A spokesman for Betfred said: “Betfred would look to review its operating procedures should any learning points emerge from this or indeed any case. However there is no evidence to suggest that any enticement of any kind was a factor in this case.”