Suspended prison sentence for fraudster

Pacemaker Belfast  1/02/2017 'Maurice Stevenson Ltd go into administration, The family-run company who have  been in operation for 95 years in Lurgan, County Armagh. The mechanical installation firm, employ 33 staff.'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Belfast 1/02/2017 'Maurice Stevenson Ltd go into administration, The family-run company who have been in operation for 95 years in Lurgan, County Armagh. The mechanical installation firm, employ 33 staff.'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A man who defrauded his employers out of more than £50,000 has been given a suspended prison term.

Darren John Hamilton (45), of Knockdene Park, was given a 20-month suspended sentence after he admitted eight charges of fraud against heating and ventilation firm Maurice Stevenson Limited (MSL) which was based in Lurgan.

The offences were committed between April 1, 2013 and August 1, 2014 Craigavon Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard.

Co-accused David Harbinson (46), of Carnamena Avenue in Belfast, received an eight-month prison sentence suspended for two years after he pleaded guilty to a single charge of false accounting.

He admitted that he “falsified certain accounts, records or documents required for an accounting purpose, namely four invoices from Daly renewables”.

Roger Crawford (42), of Ballyholme Esplanade, Bangor was ordered to carry out 100 hours community service after he pleaded guilty to a single charge of fraud by false representation.

He admitted that on dates between July 29, 2013 and September 12, 2013, he “dishonestly made a false representation, namely, that a Worldwide Sparky Limited invoice dated August 10, 2013, in the amount of £22,000 was for the supply of controls and control panels for NAS Thames Valley”.

The court heard that Crawford has made full restitution of £22,000.

The court was told that following the death of MSL company owner David Stevenson in 2012, his widow Alison left her job to try and keep the family business going.

The company, established in 1921, employed 64 people and installed heating and ventilation services. It also provided facilities management for the healthcare, education and local government sectors.

Prosecution lawyer David McDowell QC said Hamilton was employed as the company’s operations manager, earning £60,000 a year, and also received a 5% annual bonus, company car and pension.

MSL went into administration in February 2017 following financial trading difficulties but the judge said it had not been proven ‘to the required standard’ that it was due to the fraudulent activity.