Romford man jailed for �220,000 fraud that put 55 people out of work

A Romford man who committed “about as bad a breach of trust as it’s possible to imagine” was sentenced to five years in prison on Thursday.

Stephen Relf, 51, defrauded two companies out of more than �220,000 while working as an accountant and financial controller.

At the sentencing at Snaresbrook Crown Court, his actions were said to have majorly contributed to the closure of one of the firms - putting 55 people out of work.

While he was working for Miller & Miller Chemicals, of Hainault, bankers MBNA were alerted after he made a payment of over �15,000 on to the company’s credit card.

Inspectors found that he had siphoned off �103,398.13 from the company for his personal use, while disguising the money as payments to other companies.

When confronted about the crime in October 2010 he begged his employers not to tell anyone, so as not to upset his wife and daughter - and promised to pay the money back.

But it was then discovered that earlier when he was working for transport firm A&J Exhibitions, of Thurrock, he’d siphoned off �120,271.04 of company funds using the same technique, contributing to its collapse.

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Judge Timothy King told Relf, who had been on a �37,000 salary: “I notice that you have a gambling habit and I suspect a good deal of the money went to that rather than your family.”

Tony Allery, the director of A&J Exhibitions had built up the business for 20 years, but now has to work 14-hours a day as a labourer to support his family.

Mr King said: “Mr Allery found he was being threatened by creditors who believed that he was responsible for the problems.

“And you even had the gall in your position of trust to ask him for redundancy knowing you would receive some monetary benefit and knowing that you’d plundered the company.”

He described Relf’s actions as “about as bad a breach of trust as it’s possible to imagine”.

Relf was sentenced to two years in prison for one count of fraud by abuse of position, three years in prison for a second count, to run consecutively. He had pleaded guilty three days earlier.

The court will hear how much he has left in assets to pay back the companies in March 2012.