County Durham man Geoff Auston jailed for further two years - as tearful daughter is cleared of wrongdoing

Teesside Crown Court

Teesside Crown Court

First published in News
Last updated
Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by

A CROOKED businessman has been jailed for a scam which milked hundreds of thousands of pounds from a coal mine he had previously been involved in taking over.

Banned director Geoff Auston also duped his own daughter, Sophie, as part of the fraud which totalled more than half-a-million pounds.

Miss Auston had denied being a party to the carrying on of a business - Auston and Co - trading under her name, with intent to defraud between August 1, 2009 and December 1, 2011.

The 24-year-old, of Alnwick Drive, Spennymoor, County Durham, was in tears after a majority not guilty verdict was returned on her by a jury at Teesside Crown Court which had heard how her father presented her with documents to sign which she had no understanding of.

Before her trial her 59-year-old father - who is already serving a five year jail sentence after buying a haulage company Lima Transport Limited and running it dishonestly - had pleaded guilty to being concerned in the management and formation of a company while disqualified between May 1, 2009 and December 11, 2011, fraudulent trading and two counts of making a false representation.

He was jailed for a further two years by Judge Howard Crowson, a sentence previously unreported until now.

Auston, of Bishop Middleham, near Ferryhill, County Durham, who at one time drove an Aston Martin DB9 Coupe and was said to live an expensive lifestyle, made his daughter a director of a company that previously owned Eckington Colliery, in Derbyshire.

He also oversaw the setting up of Auston and Co, which the prosecution said was a vehicle to milk other people's funds away from the drift mine. He was a signatory on the bank account.

The fraud totalled more than half-a-million pounds and included the siphoning off 146,000 in profits from the colliery's coal revenues, the disappearance of 100,000 from a bank account consisting of miners' accrued tax monies, and unpaid VAT. The mine is under new ownership.

Auston - a two time bankrupt - was disqualified in September 2011 at Teesside Crown Court from acting as a director or managing a company for 15 years following his involvement with Lima Transport.

It was compulsorily wound-up in July 2006, leaving creditors with claims totalling more than 2m. He has now been further disqualified, again for 15 years.

In 2003 he was also jailed at Cardiff Crown Court, for 15 months, for money laundering after masterminding an 84,000 fuel tax fraud.

Robert Bussey, an investigator with the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, which brought the prosecution against the Austons, said: "Geoff Auston is a dishonest businessman who over many years has shown a blatant disregard for business regulation."

He added: "He is a very persuasive individual and has convinced astute businessmen to invest in his fraudulent projects."

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