Golf club money man plotted to steal £17,000 to start a new life

PUBLISHED: 13:24 13 February 2019 | UPDATED: 14:32 13 February 2019

Archant

A Topsham man who tried to swindle £17,000 through an internet scam has avoided time behind bars.

John Ross, 48, a financial controller at Exeter Golf and Country Club, planned to steal the money so he could start a new life, after a marriage breakdown which left him £45,000 in debt and living in a hotel.

Exeter Crown Court heard how he used his access to the club’s internet banking to set up a payment to his own account while disguising it as a VAT transaction to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The transfer needed to be authorised by two executives but he knew the password which his boss used on another account and guessed it would be the same.

His scheme was foiled when Barclays Bank flagged up the payment as a suspicious transaction and notified the club. Ross then confessed and pleaded with the club not to call the police. He handed himself in when they told him they could not do that.

Ross, of Coles Court, Topsham, admitted fraud by abuse of position and one count of theft and was jailed for 16 months, suspended for two years.

The accountant was also ordered to do 240 hours unpaid community work and 15 days of rehabilitation activities.

On Tuesday, February 12, Judge Paul Cook said: “You were endeavouring to provide for your family. “You were in a desperate situation where you were not coping with life or thinking in a rational way.

“You were seeking the money with a view to running away without thought for what you were going to do next or considering the consequences.”

Mr Paul Grumbar, prosecuting, said the club received an email from Barclays at 8pm on Friday, July 13, last year it queried the payment, which was nominally to the HMRC but was actually going to Ross.

The club circulated the e-mail to the management team and Ross replied by admitting what he had done. In the meantime he had used a company card to withdraw £200 cash.

Ross told police he was struggling with a divorce and was ‘in a dark place’. He said he wanted to run away and had contemplated suicide.

Miss Deborah Minnett, defending, said his break-up had left him feeling like he could see no way out of his financial and emotional turmoil.

He has now rented his own home and is working as an accountant in a job where he has no access to other people’s money. He is still supporting his children.

She said: “He did not receive any money and it was not a successful enterprise. He is genuinely remorseful.”

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