Darlington accountant who 'tricked' friends and employers of cash for gambling jailed for six years (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Six-year sentence for Darlington accountant who 'tricked' friends and employers of cash for gambling
AN accountant who defrauded friends and employers of more than £500,000 was today (Friday March 22) given a six-year prison sentence.
Lee Philip Hammond frittered the money away betting, convinced he was clever enough to beat the bookmaker.
But the gambling addict, dubbed a “confidence trickster” by the judge, stole more money in a bid to cover his losses.
Hammond, 30, left three ‘investors’ in his accountancy business, a football team-mate, a long-standing school friend and that man’s father, £28,000 out of pocket, despite them receiving some returns from their total £54,000 input.
Durham Crown Court heard it forced the trusting old school pal to cancel his wedding and lose deposits on many services booked for the occasion, while another ‘investor’ was left without money needed to fund important healthcare for a sick child.
Oliver Thorne, prosecuting, said Hammond moved on to be appointed finance specialist with Shildon and Sedgefield Development Agency, which, following a merger, became South Durham Enterprise Agency (SDEA).
He said he effectively wrote himself 73 cheques from the respective agencies for £484,743 over a ten-month period either side of the amalgamation.
The court was told it left the part-publicly funded body, a not-for-profit organisation which attempted to assist local businesses, in financial difficulties itself.
SDEA closed two district offices and made a total of nine members of staff redundant, while several projects were curtailed.
Hammond made admissions when suspicions turned to him and he handed in a confessional letter.
But while on bail for those activities, he joined Town and Country Management Ltd and stole a further £5,000, while unsuccessfully attempting to take another £5,000.
Hammond, of Beadnell Close, Darlington, admitted five charges of fraud, three of theft and one of attempted theft.
The court heard that a psychological assessment suggested he felt he deserved more than most, but has an “opportunistic outlook” and, “continually thought he could beat the bookmakers”.
Scott Smith, mitigating, said: “Unfortunately, and to the no doubt annoyance and anger of his victims, he clearly couldn’t.
“Few people can and he wasn’t one of the few.”
But Mr Smith said Hammond made "candid confessions", taking a “pro-active approach” to addressing his problem, which, after one relapse, is now under control.
Hammond has also turned to assisting other addicts and has lobbied against the “glamourisation” of gaming advertising.
Mr Smith said if given a deferred sentence Hammond could continue to address his addiction and seek to pay back some of those he defrauded, particularly his former friends.
But, jailing him, Judge Christopher Prince, told Hammond: “You are not a friend. You are a confidence trickster.
“This was sophisticated, carefully executed obtaining of large sums by a professional accountant, a man who tricked those who felt they could personally trust him, out of their personal savings and funds, as well as against employers who put you in charge of their finances.
“Addiction does not mitigate the offence or allow someone to escape apposite punishment.”