Book-keeper in £20k fraud is a free man

A BOOK-KEEPER who pocketed more than £20,000 by duping his employers into signing blank cheques has been spared prison.

Keith Evans, 60, faced at least two years behind bars, under sentencing guidelines, after admitting 10 counts of fraud and one of obtaining cash by deception.

But despite branding his crimes “a classic breach of trust”, Judge James Spencer QC reduced and suspended his jail term.

Evans syphoned £19,030 from Halifax vets Hird and Partners in March 2010 and £1,488 from King Cross doctors’ surgery over four years, Bradford Crown Court heard.

Philip Adams, prosecuting, said: “He tricked the signatories by clipping a bill to the cheque and thereafter the defendant would fill in the payee and the amount.”

Evans worked part-time at both firms and used 39 cheques to steal the cash between July 2007 and March 2010.

But his scam was uncovered when a partner at the vets’ became suspicious and called for an audit. Evans claimed to have stolen the cash to cover his snowballing debts.

Anne-Marie Hutton, mitigating, said: “The bills started to rack up, the mortgage wasn’t being paid and the property was made the subject of a repossession order.”

She said the couple would lose their “modest” cottage in West Lane, Shelf, if Evans went to jail, and their new sweet shop business would also fold.

Judge Spencer said: “There are millions of people in this country who are in dire financial circumstances, but they don’t resort to getting their employers to sign blank cheques.”

But he said it was not in the public interest to lock up Evans, who he said was “hitherto a man of good character”.

“I’m very aware of the fact that Her Majesty’s prisons are full to breaking point,” he said.

Evans was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, and must do 300 hours’ unpaid work.