Okehampton hotel manager jailed for looting £62,000

Saturday 28th May 2022 8:17 am
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Alex Stevens
(Devon and Cornwall Police )

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A finance manager has been jailed for swindling £62,000 from the Dartmoor hotel where he worked and spending it on ‘life’s little luxuries.

Alex Stevens was trusted so much by the Manor House Hotel at Fowley Cross, Okehampton that nobody monitored his use of his company credit card.

He used it fraudulently to withdraw thousands of pounds from cashpoints and pay his personal shopping bills and council tax.

He put his family’s subscriptions to Netflix and Amazon Prime on the card and spent £160 on a school trip for his daughter.

He paid for cosmetic dental treatments, settled personal debts, and even used the card to pay for his retraining as a driving instructor so he would have another career if he left the hotel.

He had worked there for more than 20 years and risen to the job of finance director. His looting only came to light after he negotiated himself a redundancy package worth £19,158.

The company runs an employee share scheme so Stevens was swindling all his workmates as well as his bosses on each of the 299 occasions he misused the credit card.

The hotel runs activity courses in arts and crafts and Stevens disguised some of the payments to make it look as if he was buying materials for them.

Stevens applied for and got a job as a prison officer after leaving the hotel in September 2020 but was sacked after being arrested for the frauds.

His thefts continued even when the hotel was closed during the first Covid lockdown and he withdrew £900 cash on the card in May 2020 alone.

He was called into crisis meetings around the same time and told senior managers that the hotel’s chances of survival were only 50 – 50, even though he knew his own dishonesty was making things even worse.

Stevens, aged 43, of Bouchers Hill, North Tawton, admitted fraud and was jailed for two years and two months by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court, who set a timetable for a financial investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

He told him: “Your motivation for this fraud appears to have been driven by financial desperation but while there was a degree of financial difficulty, there are many purchases and withdrawals which go far beyond what you needed.

“Your debts seem to be the result of a business venture that did not work out. That is unfortunate but it was your responsibility to trim your lifestyle to your means by renting a cheaper property or cutting back and getting by without life’s little luxuries.

“Your fraud and your redundancy money enabled you to pay off all your debts, so your dishonest gain is obvious.”

Mr Sam Wysocki, prosecuting, told an earlier hearing that Stevens joined the hotel in 1999 and was accounts and finance manager until he took redundancy. He stole a total of £62,155.86 and received £19,158.20 in redundancy or the sale of his employee shares.

He said: “The business is 49 per cent owned by its employees so his actions harmed all of them. He was in a position of ultimate trust and betrayed it.”

He got the card in 2018 and used it dishonestly right up to the time of his redundancy, taking large sums out of ATM machines on a regular basis.

He used it to pay for his weekly supermarket shop and £1,230 council tax, spent £1,499 on private teeth straightening treatment, paid off a £1,521 Argos debt and paid for a £1.500 course to train as a driving instructor.

Mr Will Willden, defending, said Stevens had been an honest and hardworking family man until he tried to set up his own business and left with large debts when it folded.

He became anxious and depressed about his financial situation and had sought help from his GP before the fraudulent activity began.

He is genuinely remorseful for what he did and the only reason why he had not written to the hotel to apologise is that he had been told not to contact them by police.

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