Police have welcomed the jailing of a fraudster who used his job in a council’s payroll team to siphon off almost £20,000.
Law graduate Stuart Southwick blew the cash on a Porsche Boxster, trips to London and Alton Towers, clothes and a TV and laptop.
His lavish spending began after he used a two-week agency contract at Solihull Council to divert community housing chief executive Steve Boyd’s £6,035 salary into his girlfriend Samantha Mason’s account.
Southwick also got his hands on a retiring council worker’s £13,688 final salary payment.
He disappeared from the council on May 14, the day before staff salaries are transferred, and on pay day withdrew £19,689.08 from his partner’s account.
Warwick Crown Court heard Southwick, 26, of Blackberry Lane, Halesowen, spent £8,000 of the cash on the Porsche. But he was caught last month when police officers saw Southwick at the wheel and followed the car to his girlfriend’s Solihull home.
The car was seized and Southwick, who Recorder Richard Bond said had duped Ms Mason by telling her lies about why he needed to use her account, was arrested.
He admitted fraud, plus driving without insurance or a licence, and was imprisoned for 14 months.
Trevor Meegan, defending, said Southwick was an alcoholic who was getting through a bottle of wine in secret before going to work each day, and so could not hold down a professional job.
He said it was not a long course of conduct and he had not deliberately tried to throw suspicion on to his girlfriend.
Mr Meegan said: “He was always going to be found out very quickly because a chief executive earning that sort of salary, within days is going to notice the omission of such a credit.”
Passing sentence, Recorder Bond told Southwick: “Once you arrived at the council you immediately decided to commit fraud, and you were only able to do that because of the trust placed in you.
“This is a case of sheer greed on your part.”
After the hearing, Pc Christopher Ainslie, of Solihull police, said: “Southwick wasted no time in plotting his fraud; almost within minutes of being given password access to the HR systems he was altering bank account numbers.
“He deliberately targeted staff he knew were due to receive sizeable sums in their May pay packet and diverted money into his girlfriend’s account after convincing her that his bank account was blocked.
“On realising the seriousness of his actions he claimed to have gone into work early on May 14 to reverse his amendments but was too late to make changes however, his supposed guilt didn’t stop him withdrawing all the money the following day and going on a spending spree.
“We were able to seize the £8,000 Porsche under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Cash from its sale will go towards initiatives in our communities.”
A spokesman for Solihull Council, said: “Mr Southwick was an agency employee who worked for the Council for just seven days.
“His fraud was spotted immediately and reported to the police. The money is being recovered from the agency.”