Spennymoor fraud accused tells jury she "made mistakes"

Teesside Crown Court

Teesside Crown Court

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

A BUSINESSWOMAN whose company is said to have paid for her expensive lifestyle has told a jury she was “stupid and made mistakes”.

The prosecution in the trial of Sophie Auston claim her company, Auston and Co, which was set up to sell coal from a drift mine in Derbyshire, of which Miss Auston was previously a director, funded the purchases of among other items, a £37,000 horse, a three-bedroomed detached home for the defendant and a Mini Cooper sports car.

The trial at Teesside Crown Court has also heard how £100,000 held in an account, which was money deducted from the wages of pitmen at Eckington Colliery in order to pay their tax, disappeared after a buy-out of the mine, which is now under new owners.

Miss Auston said the Mini Cooper had been bought for her on finance as "a perk of the job" because she did "a lot of running about".

The jury was told she sometimes had to travel from Durham to Sheffield to sort out miners' wages.

She said the three-bedroomed house in Alnwick Drive, Spennymoor, bought with company money, was never intended for her - and that it was a home for her mother.

"I didn't even view the house before it was purchased. I had nothing to do with it. Even now, I see it as my mum's house, not mine,” she said.

Miss Auston said she was aware company money had been used to buy the horse US Abe for 45,290 euros (£37,410), but insisted she thought that was a legitimate move.

"I was told I was fully entitled to use that money as profit share money that was due to us," she told the jury.

She was also was quizzed by prosecutor James Rae about her knowledge of a restraint order served on her in August 2011 which prevented the sale of the property at Alnwick Drive.

It also meant assets held in an HSBC account in her name could not be disposed of.

The defendant claimed she had been told by her father it was as a result of a misunderstanding and there was nothing to worry about.

She also said her father would ask her to sign documents without her fully understanding what they were.

“Looking back I have been stupid and made mistakes,” she said.

Miss Auston, 24, of Alnwick Drive, denies knowingly being a party to the carrying on of a business with intent to defraud creditors and other persons between August 1 2009 and December 1 2011.

The trial continues.

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