A director of a catering equipment firm in the North East has narrowly avoided jail after being founded guilty of cheating his business partner out of £23,000.
Neil Charlton, who set up Tyneside catering equipment supplier P&N Associates with his friend and business partner Philip Youngman 13 years ago, fraudulently used the company’s chequebook and credit card for his own financial gain.
The 58-year-old, who handled the firm’s accounts, used the company credit card to buy items from local businesses and made cheques out to himself instead of the HMRC.
Charlton was handed a 12-month suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of fraud by abuse of position.
He was also given a 12-month supervision order and was ordered to complete 120 hours of unpaid work.
After the charges, Charlton was bought out of the company.
Charlton’s former business partner, Philip Youngman, told North East newspaper, Sunday Sun, that he had lost a business partner and friend as a result of the incident and felt betrayed.
“It’s disappointing that a friend could do something like that,” he was quoted as saying. “I had known him since 1996 and we started the business in 1999. I didn’t know but he was taking money since 2009. It wasn’t just a one-off — it was over a two-year period. It makes it worse because it was over a long period of time.”
Youngman said the business was still paying £800 a month back to the Inland Revenue and would need to do so for the next year and a half.
The court heard that Charlton began taking money from the company when his life spiralled out of control due to personal problems.
Robert Adams, defending, said: “This has brought a great deal of shame on him. He is 58 and was clearly of good character. He is clearly someone who has worked hard all his life. He is now surviving off Jobseeker’s Allowance.”
The newspaper reported that Judge Penny Moreland said: “You are 58 and had until this date a previous good character. Over a period of years you cheated your co-director and friend, obtaining something just over £23,000. I accept you were struggling with current difficulties by way of depression and problems with alcohol but it is no excuse for the way you behaved. You abused your position of trust.”