A FRAUDSTER who lived the high life on £690,000 he swindled from his train company employer has been jailed for six years.
Andrew Saunders siphoned the cash from manufacturer Bombardier through fake companies and used it to pay for expensive skiing holidays in America and Harley-Davidson motorbikes.
The 52-year-old used joint bank accounts with his ex-wife Diane to pay fake invoices in a prolonged and sophisticated fraud, Hove Crown Court heard.
Jailing Saunders for six years after a trial, Judge Paul Tain attacked his sense of entitlement and said he found it unbelievable the former manager had pleaded not guilty to a profoundly significant fraud.
He said: “This is a deliberate, planned and thought through fraud based upon a knowledge and skillset which made you aware of shortcomings in the computer system at the time.
“You thought you were making a profit for this company in your mind and you thought they could share that with you.
“You lived a significant lifestyle well beyond your ordinary means.
“Holidays in the US at expensive ski resorts, purchase and use of expensive motorcycles which you favoured called Harley-Davidsons and no doubt more generally living a higher life than would have been possible with your income.”
The judge said the crime had the hallmarks of a sophisticated fraud which netted Saunders, of Benjamin Gray Drive in Wick, a huge amount of money.
Judge Tain spoke of his disquiet at the attitude Saunders had taken during the trial against his former employers, co-workers and ex-wife.
He said: “You trashed everybody about who you spoke, your wife, co-workers, the company for which you worked.”
“You were prepared to trash anybody to the jury.
“It disquieted me in a major way.”
The judge also described Saunders’ not guilty plea as unbelievable.
“The other thing which disquieted me was the unbelievable fact you pleaded not guilty.”
The judge said his guilt had been obvious to everybody in court.
“I found myself increasingly surprised you had not opted to plead guilty,” he said.
The judge said he even checked court paperwork to make sure Saunders had been advised his sentence would be lighter if he pleaded guilty.
“You must’ve hoped the jury would have been bamboozled,” he said.
“I do regard you as a person who has tried to cover his tracks and trashed people and tried to characterise them in a way which would reflect well on you.
“In my view it reflects badly on you.”
Judge Tain said Saunders had taken Bombardier for a ride.
“You knew you were guilty all the time.
“Broadly speaking, a pack of lies,” the judge said.
Saunders signed off on fraudulent purchase orders through four fake companies, taking advantage of his position in train manufacturers Bombardier to fund a lavish lifestyle.
Saunders defrauded Bombardier Transportation UK by sending large sums of money to four fake business accounts from his employer’s account and then transferring the funds to himself.
Jurors were told he abused his role while working on a project with railway operator Southern at depots based in Brighton, Bedford and Selhurst.
Saunders spent the money gained between August 28, 2008, and April 30, 2013 ,on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, a hot tub and other expensive items, the court heard.
Prosecutor Hugh French told the court co-defendant Roy George had pleaded guilty at magistrates court.
George ran two companies used by Saunders to pay fake invoices after becoming a supplier to Bombardier in 2010.
His share of the fraud was £134,340.17, the court heard.
George was given a two-year suspended sentence and ordered to do 300 hours’ unpaid work.
Judge Tain told him: “Thank your lucky starts you’ve avoided imprisonment.”
The court heard Saunders used four business accounts in the names of Precision Moulding, registered to his home address, N and T and Sidestand Ltd, both registered to Mrs Saunders’ home address, and Ras Ltd, registered to George.
In a statement to the court, Bombardier legal director Catherine Parkes said; “The external financial cost of the investigation is in excess of £650,000.
“The cost of the internal time this has taken is two to three years in man hours.
“Bombardier does not believe it has sustained reputational loss but reputational damage from allegations he made in the course of legal proceedings is too early to tell.”
Judge Tain told Saunders he would serve at least half of his six-year sentence in custody and there would be a proceeds of crime order in due course.
He showed no emotion as he was taken down.