Care home fraud accountant jailed
An accountant at a national care home firm stole £184,000 from dead residents' bank accounts after he developed a cocaine addiction to deal with the stress of the credit crunch, a court has heard.
Steven Mason, 37, was trusted enough by Four Seasons Health Care, which has 500 homes across the UK, to be involved in developing its fraud policy.
But the married father-of-one used his expertise to siphon off cash from the balances of residents who had died and whose next of kin were unknown, in what Teesside Crown Court heard was an "intricate fraud".
The senior internal audit manager, from Seaview, Easington, County Durham, was jailed for two years by Judge Howard Crowson, having previously admitted a single count of fraud.
Christopher Knox, defending, said the accountant's "spectacular" fall from grace was caused by cocaine.
"This man was successful, he was in a good position and he was promoted relatively rapidly," Mr Knox said. "He was promoted and found himself in a particularly stressful situation. You know the nature of the business he was employed in. These businesses found themselves in very considerable difficulty when the credit crunch started."
Mr Knox said Mason felt his job was under threat and succumbed to cocaine.
The judge said that may explain his offending, but in some ways the use of a Class A drug made it worse. Burglars did not get credit for having a drug addiction, the judge said. "Neither can I give Mr Mason such credit for setting up a quite intricate fraud to fund his cocaine habit," he added.
Mr Knox said Mason's wife, Natasha, a health professional, had helped him battle his cocaine addiction and was standing by him.
A Proceeds of Crime hearing will take place at a later date.