Businessman jailed for £1m fraud

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A WEALTHY businessman from Longhoughton who fiddled £1million of company accounts to keep it afloat and his staff in employment has been jailed.

Kenneth Hunt, of Hunt Kidd Solicitors in Newcastle, siphoned the money when the recession hit and consequently had a negative impact on his business.

When business partner Barbara Grayton became aware of the fraud, she went along with it before they were both caught.

The pair were both given prison terms at Newcastle Crown Court last week.

Hunt and Grayton both pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position, taking money from their clients’ accounts to put into the firm.

Between October, 2008 and October, 2009 a total of £1,049,103 was taken to help keep the Pilgrim Street firm in business.

Defending Hunt, Neil Hawes said: “Both are intelligent individuals, but he made a stupid reckless decision that he will regret for the rest of his life.There was an intention to pay it back.”

The court heard the defence barristers say there was no personal gain from the fraud, and they did not go on to live a life of luxury from the transfers.

Grayton’s barrister, Robert Smith QC said that she had lost everything she had ever had.

Hunt was sentenced to four years in prison while Grayton, of Broadwell Court in South Gosforth, was sentenced to two years.

Judge Guy Whitburn said: “It is clear to me Kenneth Hunt that you instigated this.”

He said it was an unrealistic hope that Hunt would be able to repay the money.

He added about Grayton: “What you should have done was blown the whistle and said that this can’t be tolerated. You did not. You did not for misguided loyalty.”