Lytham St Annes accountant jailed over £295k pension fraud

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Image caption Roger Bessen tried to cover his tracks by forging minutes of non-existent business meetings

An accountant who showed "astonishing arrogance" and "brazen disregard" when helping himself to more than £295,000 from a pension scheme has been jailed.

Roger Bessent, 66, of Lytham St Annes, Lancashire used the money to help buy a house for his daughter and support family-related businesses.

At Preston Crown Court he was jailed for three years and four months.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to multiple counts of fraud between October 2014 and December 2016.

Bessent also admitted acting as a director while disqualified.

The court heard Bessent made fraudulent transfers from investors planning for retirement, including

  • £121,000 to help himself and his wife Margaret purchase a home in the village of Broughton, Preston for his daughter and son-in-law
  • £104,000 to his daughter's nursery, Little Rascals (Preston) Ltd, "essentially to keep the business afloat"
  • £35,600 to Salvador Health and Recovery Ltd, a sports injury clinic run by his son-in-law
  • £27,500 moved to Achieve Financial Freedom, a business he was planning to set up to establish himself as in independent financial adviser
  • £7,000 to pay off a tax bill

The court heard the monies transferred from the Focusplay Retirement Benefit Scheme - of which he was the trustee - were all to enterprises in which he held a beneficial interest.

By February 2017, the scheme had 305 members - all individual investors - with a fund value of £17.4m, prosecutor Will Hays said.

Bessent, of South Promenade, was caught out following investigations by The Pensions Regulator and the Insolvency Service, even though he had tried to cover his tracks by forging minutes of business meetings that had never taken place.

Judge Nicholas Barker told him: "You acted with with brazen disregard for the proper regulations, prohibitions and responsibilities which were designed to protect the interests of unsophisticated investors.

"You have demonstrated astonishing arrogance in your disregard for the financial welfare of the members of the scheme."

Dan Thomas, defending, said his client "bitterly regrets" his actions and was remorseful.

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