An accountant who stole more than £200,000 from a business to fund his lifestyle has been jailed for three years.
Richard Sullivan, also known as Richard Sullivan-Porteus, who ran his own accountancy and taxation business, took the money while assisting with the financial affairs of Sedge Homes, based in Spalding, and its associated company Sedge Estate Agents, Lincoln Crown Court heard today (Monday).
Mark Knowles, prosecuting, said Sullivan was paid a monthly fee for his duties which included paying suppliers, settling tax bills and producing end of year accounts.
But over a four year period he stole from the companies, syphoning off money into his own firm. He also failed to pay bills.
The thefts came to light in October 2012 after concern was raised about the number of final reminders the firm was receiving for unpaid bills at a time when it was having the most profitable time of its existence. Checks revealed that unauthorised payments were being made not only to Sullivan’s firm but also to other sources.
Mr Knowles said that Sullivan, who was a long standing friend of the boss of Sedge Homes, was trusted to carry out the accountancy work.
When Sullivan was challenged he initially said £30,000 was involved but later admitted he had taken a much larger amount.
Mr Knowles said “Between 2008 and 2012 the defendant systematically defrauded the company. He was clearly in a position of both personal and professional trust.
“The sums taken prejudiced the business and caused them to have insufficient funds to meet tax liabilities.”
The court heard that even before he began stealing Sullivan had a lifestyle which was unsustainable on the level of income he was bringing in. The prosecutor said Sullivan is now “on the brink of bankruptcy”.
Sullivan,45, of Millfield Road, Market Deeping, admitted theft of £240,000 between October 2008 and October 2012.
Judge Michael Heath told him “I can’t draw back from an immediate custodial sentence. This was a very serious breach of trust.”
Richard Fisher, defending, urged that Sullivan should receive a suspended jail sentence to allow him to retain his liberty.
He said Sullivan and his wife had suffered personal tragedy as a result of the death of their son which contributed to severe anxiety and stress.
“The personal tragedies suffered by himself and his wife between 2006 and 2008 don’t justify the prolonged offending but it may provide some context as to why it occurred.”
Mr Fisher said that Sullivan had been involved with Deepings Rugby Club as a coach and also helped his local church.
“He is someone who has contributed to his local community in a positive way.”
After the hearing DS Lance Morgan, the senior investigating officer in the case, said: “Richard Sullivan was in a fortunate and privileged position in his private life but despite this he chose to masquerade as a wealthy and successful businessman, living a lavish lifestyle that was extravagant and beyond his means.
“He preyed on his unsuspecting clients and practised his criminal deception for a period of at least four years. In doing so committed the ultimate betrayal, stealing over a quarter of a million pounds from his clients and close friends.”