Accountant jailed after defrauding firm and clients out of £250,000

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An experienced tax accountant has been sentenced to three years in prison after he committed fraud against a number of clients and the firm that employed him for 30 years.

Norfolk-based accountant Timothy Bash has pleaded guilty to fraud after he stole almost £250,000 from clients and betrayed his employers, accountancy firm Lovewell Blake.

While working at the firm for more than three decades, Bash offered tax advice and completed tax returns.

Norwich Crown Court heard how Bash used various methods to obtain fraudulent cheques from clients, including duping them into paying cheques to LB – assuming the initials stood for the firm, Lovewell Blake.

However, Bash would then alter the wording into his wife’s initials ‘L Bash’ and pay the cheques into their joint account. The court heard how Bash would then withdraw the money immediately from their account to avoid any suspicion from his wife. This continued for seven years.

Between October 2010 and March 2017, Bash swindled £207,107 from 25 to 30 clients and £40,477 from the firm and used the money to fuel a £1,000 a day gambling addiction.

The daughter of a recently deceased client rumbled Bash's scam after discovering a letter from the tax accountant requesting a £4,500 loan from her mother. The firm had no records of this financial agreement, which Bash had only paid back £500.

Bash confessed all in a meeting with his managers two days later, admitting that he had been committing fraud for a number of years. It was then that Lovewell Blake contacted the police.

Shortly after his confession, the tax manager was arrested and a police investigation confirmed the extent of his fraud against a number of clients and the accountancy firm.

Although Bash pleaded guilty to two fraud counts over a seven-year period, he admitted to the police that his fraudulent activity stretched back over a 12-year spell, and the money taken could amount to as much as £400,000.

Commenting after the sentencing, DC Mike Blowers said: “This was a complex investigation where Bash used his position to not only exploit his clients but he also betrayed the firm which had employed him for 30 years. In many of these cases Bash had been seeing his clients for many years, forming a close acquaintance and gaining their trust.”

Although Bash’s clients and firm were left shocked by his deceit, a Lovewell Blake spokesperson said they were glad the matter had reached its conclusion and that justice had been done.  

“To succeed and function efficiently any organisation has to put faith and trust in members of staff. However, on this unfortunate occasion that has been misplaced by one person acting alone in a cunning and calculating way.

“Tim Bash worked in a highly specialised part of the firm mainly handling personal tax matters for individuals. We have been in correspondence with those individuals affected and will continue to take appropriate steps in this regard.”

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's Practice Editor. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.

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09th Jul 2019 10:04

Has the firm, their insurers or the ICAEW (if they are the governing body), repaid the stolen money to the clients?

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to G Webber CTA
09th Jul 2019 10:40

Press reports indicate the losses were covered by insurance.
Also the convicted defendant will be subject to confiscation proceedings under Part 2 PoCA 2002.
David

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to davidwinch
09th Jul 2019 13:06

Confiscation proceedings against a man with a £1k a day gambling habit?

I'll not be holding my breath.

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to G Webber CTA
09th Jul 2019 13:17

G Webber CTA wrote:

Confiscation proceedings against a man with a £1k a day gambling habit?

I'll not be holding my breath.


According to press reports there is "The detached, family home with its large driveway and pot plants". So there may be equity in that.
David
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By mkowl
09th Jul 2019 10:07

Sounds like he had several bashes at it

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to mkowl
09th Jul 2019 13:33

Yes indeed. I expect he will also have a bash in the traditional manner when he gets out.

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09th Jul 2019 10:38

As an accountant, I feel it would be remiss of me not to point out that per the information given, the amounts stolen are only sufficient to fuel a £104.29 a day gambling habit.

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to Duggimon
09th Jul 2019 10:42

According to press reports he admitted to more thefts than there was evidence available to prove. He was only convicted of the thefts proved.
But I think the suggestion is that, on some days, he gambled up to £1,000. Fair point!

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By DJKL
to Duggimon
10th Jul 2019 16:54

Some of the bests must surely have won which would somewhat improve the daily stake available.

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By Absolom
09th Jul 2019 10:53

I've been brought in as an external party on a number of fraud cases over the years, and every single one was to fund a gambling addiction.

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to Absolom
09th Jul 2019 12:40

This reminds me of the infamous Grays case where the misappropriated funds were, I think, reported to have been spent primarily on "women and racing"!

In the only fraud I ever encountered in practice, the benefits fraudulently obtained were used to fund a daughter's drug habit. I imagine drugs must be another common driver.

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09th Jul 2019 11:35

Why would he request a £4,500 loan from a client? Was the money going to be used for himself, as it would be if he had taken out a loan from a bank? If so, why not do it that way instead? I'm quite confused. Can anyone explain?

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to ambergoodridge
09th Jul 2019 13:01

He most likely has a very bad credit. By the time a professional (with a lot to lose) resorts to stealing, they've exhausted all other options.

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09th Jul 2019 11:42

But the question is.
If he diverted funds from the client's to his wife's bank account, then surely the amount were still outstanding or due to HMRC. Would this not have been picked up a little down the line by basic credit controls?
It does not add up.

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to Martin B
09th Jul 2019 11:54

I did have a case years ago in which a dishonest accountant simply told clients "You owe tax of £xx, give me a cheque for that & I will pay it" - and they did. (The tax they actually owed was much less and he kept the difference.)
David

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09th Jul 2019 12:50

I think it sounds like the cheques were payable for accountancy fees to LB. He probably just popped a credit note on their account, or simply printed an invoice but never posted to the ledgers in the first place and just took the whole payment. So it looks like the partners were down quite a bit each.

Looks like his departmental code invoice analysis wasnt checked against the order book of the portfolio of recurring fees he controlled.

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to Tom 7000
09th Jul 2019 13:04

If your thoughts are anything to go by, the firm must have been making too much money to notice.

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By Dandan
09th Jul 2019 13:46

It is the usual suspects : Gambling and Drugs

With the government sucking up to online gambling companies as well as considering legalising some drugs, expect fraud to become widespread in our society.

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09th Jul 2019 15:12

Surprising how many cases like this spring up.

Back in the late 90's I had a sting working for a guy. The police turned up one day looking for him; it transpired he had been dealing with a tax investigation and had been advising the client to make 'in good faith' payments on account to HMRC. He told the client to make the cheques out to himself / his firm, as he paid all tax liabilities for all clients in one go each week from his firm's account.

The client seemingly didn't bat an eyelid at this and kept writing the cheques.

This had been going on for 2 years. It was only 2 years later that it transpired that HMRC had not received any payments.

He served 18 months. Still knocking about now.

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09th Jul 2019 15:21

Guarded responses so far...

"There but for the grace of God" comes to mind. In common with many colleagues, I'm a bit obsessive/compulsive, which makes me good at my job, but also addiction-prone. I'm not a gambler, but could see myself getting into trouble if I started. I'm not trying to excuse Mr. Bash's behavior, but can see how it might unfold.

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10th Jul 2019 09:32

So , waster Bash paid the cheques into his / his wife's joint bank account . He then proceeded to withdraw the money immediately..........to avoid any suspicion from his wife........... It beggars belief..
No doubt, after serving probably 15 months of his 3 year sentence , Bash will advise his wife to pay more attention to their joint bank account.

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to Mr J Andrews
10th Jul 2019 09:49

Mr Bash may have caused himself and his wife an extra difficulty by depositing the money in a JOINT bank account first. It could be argued that by those deposits he made 'tainted gifts' to his wife. If so, on confiscation, not only his assets but those of his wife would be "realisable property" for confiscation purposes.
So if, for example, his wife owns half of the matrimonial home the WHOLE of the equity in it could be at risk to pay off a confiscation order.
David

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11th Jul 2019 01:22

Wow I found this to be a good read

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