Shropshire woman jailed for £600,000 family firm fraud
A Shropshire woman has been jailed for almost three years for defrauding her family’s engineering firm out of more than £600,000 to help her husband start his own business.
Aimee Purchase, 36, from Much Wenlock, was jailed for 32 months for defrauding Stourbridge based MI Engineering Ltd which is owned by her parents Ian and Yvonne Skidmore.
Shrewsbury Crown Court heard that Purchase who had access to the funds at the family firm where she helped out, carried out the crime after being put under pressure by her husband, Rikki Purchase, to steal it so that he could set up on his own.
Aimee Purchase, of Hunter's Gate, admitted fraud by abuse of a position of trust while Rikki Purchase, 38, of the same address, pleaded guilty to concealing/disguising/converting/transferring/removing criminal property (money laundering) to the value of more than £100,000.
Prosecuting barrister, Charles Hamer, said: "Aimee Purchase pleaded guilty on April 4, 2016, to committing fraud and the loss to the company totalled £667,175.71.
"The plea was under the Fraud Act but not all of it would have been related to her criminality. Her figure came down to about £570,000.
"Ultimately Rikki Purchase pleaded guilty and the total cash converted by him was £191,620.98."
Mr Hamer said the couple were arrested in July 2015 when the offences came to light, and in her police interview Aimee Purchase "acknowledged that she was responsible for siphoning the funds" while her husband "sought to lay considerable blame on her parents".
He told the court that Rikki Purchase initially gave a not guilty plea to the money laundering offence and the case was listed for trial.
He then changed his plea which resulted to the pair being sentenced together in relation to the case.
Judge Jim Tindal said he had received a letter from Mrs Skidmore who believed her daughter had been put up to the crime.
"Aimee Purchase was part of her family's business and she took the opportunity to effectively defraud that business," he said.
"One of the drivers for it was that Rikki Purchase was keen to set up a similar business and he is responsible for taking just shy of £200,000."
"It is perfectly obvious to me that Aimee Purchase used her position to siphon the funds under the influence or pressure from her husband. She was the only one who had access to the money."
Sentencing Rikki Purchase, 37, to two years jail, suspended for two years, Judge Tindal told him: "You take a significant amount of responsibility for what happened and you have pleaded guilty to quite a different offence than your wife."
"The main reason I'm suspending the sentence is due to the welfare of the children. You must also carry out 250 hours of unpaid work in the community and attend rehabilitation 15 activity days with probation."
He added that Aimee Purchase must serve up to 16 months of the term before being released on curfew.
Bid to recover money from couple
Aimee and Rikki Purchase will now face having to pay some of the money back, say police.
West Mercia Police, who have been investigating the case, say the pair will now face a further proceeds of crime hearing in a bid to recover some of the stolen money.
Detective Inspector Emma Wright of the Economic Crime Unit, said: “Aimee Purchase was employed as the finance director for a company called MI Engineering Limited based in Lye, Stourbridge, while Rikki Purchase was the director of a company called Monster Tuning Limited working from an industrial estate in Telford.
“As a result of MI Engineering Limited completing its year-end accounts in August 2014, it was established that there was a discrepancy to the value of more than £660,000.
“The investigation by Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police’s Economic Crime Unit found that the money had been paid to either an account in the name of Monster Tuning Limited or had been credited to accounts belonging to Aimee and Rikki Purchase.
“Enquiries revealed that the money stolen from MI Engineering Limited had been used to fund the couple’s lifestyle and also to support Rikki Purchase’s company Monster Tuning Limited.
DI Wright added: “This has been a long and complex investigation and I am pleased with the verdict of the court. I feel the sentence reflects the seriousness of the crime, as well as how Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police remain committed to bringing those committing fraud and financial crime to justice.
“Both defendants will now also face proceedings to recover the assets stolen, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. This process can allow for victims to be compensated and denies criminals the benefits of their crimes.”
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