A Preston based accountant who stole more than £280,000 of pension funds to prop up his struggling businesses has been jailed for three years and four months.Advertisement
Preston Crown Court heard Roger Bessent, 66, used the Focusplay Retirement Benefit Scheme as ‘his own personal piggy bank’ to make personal investments for himself and his family.
Bessent was the director of Gleeson Bessent Trustees Ltd, based in Navigation Business Park, Ashton-on-Ribble, when he took the money intended for his clients’ retirement.
He pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and two counts of making employer-related investments in the first prosecution of its kind by the Pensions Regulator.
Among his fraudulent investments were:
£121,000 to buy a house in Broughton for his daughter and son-in-law
£104,000 to keep his daughter’s nursery, Little Rascals Preston Ltd, in Bluebell Way, Fulwood, afloat
£35,600 to set up Salvador Health and Recovery Ltd, at Lane Ends, for his son-in-law
£27,500 to set himself up as a financial advisor in his own business Achieve Financial Freedom
£7,000 to pay off a tax bill
But despite Bessent’s best efforts to cover his tracks by falsifying records, he was caught out when an investigation by the Insolvency Service and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) spotted a number of irregularities with the way the businesses were run.
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Nicola Parish, TPR’s Executive Director of Frontline Regulation, said: “Bessent used the pension scheme as his personal piggy bank, transferring out hundreds of thousands of pounds for his own personal benefit and to keep his other businesses going.
“As an accountant, Bessent was someone that people would turn to for advice and put their trust in. He abused that trust and used his position as trustee to defraud the scheme for his benefit and the benefit of his friends and family.”
Last year, Bessent was banned from acting as a director, along with three other directors of Gleeson Bessent Trustees (GBT).
Bessent, of Lytham St Annes, Tracey Park, of Freckleton, Matthew Bessent, of Preston and Neil O’Donnell of Poulton-le-Fylde were banned for nine years, five years, three and a half years and three and a half years respectively.
The former directors accepted six instances of unfit behaviour, including failing to comply with pension legislation and TPR guidance on what is expected of Trustees, as well as operating with a lack of transparency designed to persuade or encourage the public, who were not sophisticated investors, to transfer pension funds into pension schemes which relied on high risk investments.
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Gleeson Bessent Trustee Services (GBTS) and Gleeson Bessent Trustees (GBT), based in Preston, were wound up in the public interest by the courts in March 2017.