A gambling addict has been jailed for 16 months after his offending contributed to a Sowerby Bridge firm going into administration.
Bradford Crown Court heard today (Friday) that it was the second time Balraj Kaler’s gambling habit had caused financial difficulties, but this time three people had lost their jobs as a result.
Kaler, 34, of Marcus Way, Mount, Huddersfield, admitted various offences of fraud relating to his position as a credit controller with ACP Coatings.
He also took thousands of pounds from his own brother’s bank account.
Judge John Potter was told that the total sum involved over a four-month period between September last year and January 2012 was almost £63,000.
Prosecutor Duncan Ritchie said Kaler, who has a degree in business studies, had previously worked for another of his uncle’s firms and it was apparent that he had run up debts due to his gambling habit.
Mr Ritchie said Kaler had been diverting money from that company, but no action was taken against him and in fact family members paid for him to receive treatment at The Priory Rehabilitation clinic.
He spent five weeks at the clinic at an estimated cost of about £23,000 but after going back to the company he was eventually dismissed.
Mr Ritchie said by July 2010 Kaler’s uncle began to trust him again and got him a job at ACP Coatings but in October last year it was noticed that client payments were not appearing in the company accounts as expected.
The court heard how Kaler sent emails to two firms telling them to make payments into another account which he controlled and Mr Ritchie said throughout the period the defendant was gambling heavily with an online bookmakers.
Kaler also used other accounts to divert money from the company and Judge Potter said he had also “plundered” his brother’s bank account.
In a victim impact statement from Kaler’s uncle it was indicated that ACP Coatings had subsequently gone into administration with 14 people losing their employment.
But Mr Ritchie confirmed that another company had been set up and 11 of those workers had been re-employed by the new venture.
Mr Ritchie submitted that Kaler’s offending must have played a substantial part in the company going into administration.
But Kaler’s barrister Lisa Roberts said it had been a loss-making company and its debts were considerably more than the £60,000 which her client had taken.
She said she couldn’t argue that the offending had contributed to the administration, but she did dispute that it had contributed significantly.
Miss Roberts said separated Kaler, a father-of-one, was now virtually penniless and shunned by his community.
She said he had expressed genuine contrition for letting down those who had put the utmost trust and faith in him.
“He had it all. He’s lost it all through his own fault,” she conceded.
The court heard that about a third of the money taken had been repaid.
Judge John Potter said Kaler’s family had done everything they could to help him and he described the offending as sophisticated and professional.
The judge said Kaler was clearly an intelligent man who was well-trained and highly computer literate, but he said a gambling addiction was no excuse for offending of this kind.