A PROJECT manager who put workers’ jobs and his company’s future in jeopardy when he carried out a £50,000 fraud today walked free from court.
Edward Wallace, who was earning more than £40,000 per year, ordered huge quantities of materials, which he billed to his firm, Millennium Conveyor Services Ltd in Jarrow.
He then sold on at a cheap rate to “contacts” so he could pocket the cash.
The 53-year-old recruited friend and business supplier George Lowery, 52, to help him with the con by transporting the metals.
When Wallace’s bosses at MCS started to ask why they were operating at a loss, Wallace wiped the data from his work phone and laptop in a bid to cover his tracks.
Newcastle Crown Court heard when police examined the devices they retrieved messages between Wallace and Lowery, which indicated what they had been up to.
One message read “phew, that was close”.
Prosecutor Tom Moran told the court: “The company invested a great deal of time and some money in carrying out an investigation of what had gone on, employing an ex-police officer, initially, to do so, trying to identify how materials had been purchased and where they had been used.
“It became clear a large amount of materials had been ordered as if being used on a particular project, but in fact had not been.
“It has had a very serious effect on the company financially, but, just as importantly, emotionally on the people involved.
“There has been a reduction in staff numbers and a significant effect on the directors who struggled to keep it going.”
Wallace, of Nora Street, High Barnes, Sunderland, and Lowery, of St Oswalds Avenue, Walker, Newcastle, both admitted fraud charges committed in 2012 and 2013.
Judge Robert Adams told Wallace: “You saw an opportunity to dishonestly make a lot of money from your employer and knew the business systems very well.”
He sentenced Wallace to 23 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with supervision, 150 hours ‘unpaid work and a weekend curfew for six months.
Lowery, who admitted involvement in about £30,000 worth of the fraud, was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with supervision.
The judge told them: “I hope you are deeply ashamed, both of you, of your dishonest behaviour and your involvement in this fraud.
“You have both lost your good character. You now both have a dishonesty conviction on your record.
“You both should have known better, and I am sure you are ashamed of what you have done.”
The judge accepted the company’s troubles could not be proved to lie solely behind the fraud.
The court heard the metal was sold at a huge loss, and Wallace claimed he made only around £12,000 for himself in the scam.
David Combe, defending Wallace, said he was a single father coping with enormous personal debt, but has since found new, well-paid work.
Mr Combe said: “He is not a risk to the public.”
Graeme Cook, also defending Lowery, said his involvement in the 31 deliveries he made was due to “naivity”.
Both men are being pursued by investigators under the Proceeds of Crime Act in a bid to get the money back.