Accountant jailed for £3m fraud involving Rita Ora and Matt Dawson
An accountant who once boasted celebrity clients such as singer Rita Ora and former rugby star Matt Dawson has been sentenced to more than five years in jail after admitting multiple frauds totalling £3.35m.
Andrew Munday confessed to six counts of fraud by false representation and three counts of money laundering at Northampton Crown Court after he was caught siphoning cash from client accounts to fund a gambling habit and buy houses, watches and memorabilia.
Seven-year trail of fraud
While working as an accountant at the now-defunct accounting firm Blue Cube Business Ltd, Munday transferred £1.6m from Ora Multi-Services, the company owned by pop star and X-Factor judge Rita Ora, into his own bank account, and caused a total loss to the company of just under £2.4m.
During a seven-year trail of fraud from 2009 to 2016, Munday also stole £1.08m from Decidedly Dawson Ltd, the company of former England scrum-half and Question of Sport captain Matt Dawson.
The court heard how Munday had used the personal bank account of former singer VV Brown as a vehicle to make payments, settle invoices for other Blue Cube clients and move around money from other clients.
In a victim statement Brown, who also had £438,000 removed from her personal account, said that Munday had appeared “charming and loyal” on the phone and in person, but had ruined a lot of people's lives.
“He has stolen a lot more from people than money,” continued the statement. "I was working towards this since the age of 15. This has been more than criminal. It has affected me psychologically and left me with deep feelings of mistrust.”
Munday also took £53,000 from Six Ten Media Ltd, the company owned by another ex-England rugby star Martin Bayfield. The former accountant claimed the company needed to make a payment to HMRC but the money found its way to his personal bank account.
A statement from Bayfield said that this had caused the former second-row 'embarrassment', as the tax authority came after him for unpaid tax when he believed he had settled his affairs.
The victim statement went on to say that Munday’s position brings with it “huge power and huge responsibility.”
Tip of the iceberg
The fraud was eventually flagged by Munday’s director David Foster, who became suspicious when he saw an email from Munday to betting outfit Betfair in which he claimed he had a self-employed income of £385,000 on top of his basic salary of £33,000 a year.
Foster uncovered the Ora Multi Services fraud, but according to prosecutors this was quickly revealed as the "tip of the iceberg".
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A police investigation found that Munday had up to 14 bank accounts at any one time and used internet banking credentials to transfer money between the accounts as part of his “sustained and lengthy” fraud.
Munday was arrested in August 2016 and resigned from the firm. The majority of the money has since been recovered, but according to court documents Munday’s former clients are still owed £710,000.
Sentencing him to five years and eight months in prison, Judge Rupert Mayo told Northampton Crown Court: "The individuals who trusted you with their bank sign-in details and therefore trusted you with their hard-earned wealth have been emotionally harmed by the abuse of trust which you perpetrated."
“Of course, not every piece of damage done by you can be put right,” continued Judge Mayo. “Blue Cube is no more and the leading partner in that firm, David Foster, has lost his reputation. Your wife and two young sons do not have you at home. Insurance costs and investigation costs have exceeded £2m. Fraud is not a victimless crime by any means.”
Defending QC Nigel Edwards cited a diagnosis of severe, persistent gambling disorder from a psychologist.
Munday had previously been declared bankrupt after building up gambling debts, and Edwards stated that he had a “Walter Mitty” lifestyle in relation to his gambling.
“He was lying to everyone around him,” said Edwards. “He said 'I am surprised at just how long this lasted before it was discovered'. He hoped it wasn't discovered before he had paid it back.”
Trusted adviser who goes off the rails
For money laundering expert and director of Bartfields Forensic Accountants David Winch, the story is a familiar one. “Time and again we see fraud committed by a trusted employee or adviser who goes off the rails and runs amok with someone's money,” said Winch.
“It is so easy to burn through money, particularly where online gambling is involved.
“The pain for the victims is not just the financial cost; there is the emotional cost of the unexpected betrayal.
“In this case, no doubt the partial repayment by the accountant has been recognised in a reduced sentence.
“The moral of the story is 'keep an eye on your money'. Even very occasional and basic checks can uncover a fraud which would otherwise continue and grow for years.”
Tom is editor at AccountingWEB, responsible for all editorial content on the site.
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