Care home auditor who stole £180,000 from accounts of dead residents is jailed (From The Northern Echo)
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Care home auditor who stole £180,000 from accounts of dead residents is jailed
6:00pm Thursday 5th September 2013 in News
A THIEVING auditor was today (Thursday, September 5) jailed for stealing £180,000 from the accounts of dead care home residents to feed a "substantial" drug addiction.
Steven Mason, who worked in Darlington and helped set up his firm's fraud policy, took the money in just one year as his cocaine habit spiralled.
The 36-year-old worked as group internal auditor for Four Seasons Health Care - an independent company and major national healthcare provider.
Between September 2010 and September 2011, he took money from the accounts of dead residents from across the UK whose next of kin could not be traced.
The funds were laundered through two bank accounts - one of which was set up purely to help hide Mason's crimes, Teesside Crown Court was told.
He spent some of it on a car and to clear debts, but the bulk went on his costly cocaine habit, his barrister, Christopher Knox told the court.
Mason was described as a trusted and hard-working employee by Mr Knox, who said his addiction "on a substantial scale" created a "disastrous" situation.
Mr Knox told the court that he was under pressure a work after a rapid promotion, feared for the future of his job and "succumbed" to the Class A drug.
Mason, a married father-of-one of Seaview, Easington, County Durham, was jailed for two years after he admitted fraud at an earlier court hearing.
Judge Howard Crowson described the swindle as "intricate" and told him: "It was clever in the sense you used two separate accounts to funnel the money.
"It took careful planning and execution . . . you were in a very highly-regarded position, a professional man with a position of great trust."
Mr Knox described the case as "a spectacular fall from grace" and told the court that Mason's wife, Natasha, a health professional, is standing by him.
Four Seasons operates nursing homes, care homes and specialist units throughout the UK, has over 500 centres and employs more than 30,000 people.
A statement from the company last night said: "We are disappointed and let down that a member of staff could abuse their position of trust in this way.
"Members of Four Seasons Health Care’s financial management team actively co-operated with an investigation by Cleveland Police into the suspected financial irregularities within an administrative department for our care homes division, which came to light in 2012.
"These investigations have led to this court hearing. We have also conducted our own internal review of the procedures and put in place additional checks.
"We have reimbursement arrangements in place, as a matter of routine, so that none of our residents or their families would have experienced any lasting financial loss."