CFO Warren Ho, 30, convicted of fraud

A MAN working as a finance manager for a small business ‘put his staff’s future at risk’ after stealing £25,000 over 18 months.

Warren Ho, of Skipton Close, Newton-le-Willows, appeared at Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday, after pleading guilty to one count of fraud.

The court heard how Ho, 30, was hired as chief financial officer in January 2017 for technology company Zedsphere, based in Birchwood, Warrington.

Johnathan Rogers, prosecuting, said: “This is a case of a man abusing a position of trust while employed.

“Ho was on a salary of between £30,000 and £32,000 and was responsible for paying the company’s bills – a position with a high degree of trust as he had direct access to the company’s bank accounts.”

The court heard that the company’s chief executive, Rick Yates, was alerted to unpaid bills in May last year, which spanned an 18-month period.

The defendant had paid money on at least 30 occasions to his own bank account rather than to suppliers.

Ho made the first payment on his third day with the company.

Rogers said, “He would hide transactions in the form of refunds and payments to suppliers by falsifying invoices.”

Judge Johnathan Foster said: “Fraud against a business may seem victimless, but it certainly isn’t – it amounted to a year’s worth of profit.

“You spent money on luxuries that business owners couldn’t afford.”

Mr Yates was present in court to give a personal victim statement.

He explained how debt hampered the company’s growth and business activity, with the company “going from a cash-rich business to a cash-poor business very quickly.”

Mr Rogers added: ‘Ho repaid the £25,000 with a further £12,000 in cash loans.

Stella Hayden, defending, said: “The defendant understands that this is a very serious matter. He is now working two jobs to pay off his loans from the bank after repaying the amount in full.

“It’s a positive aspect of his rehabilitation as he seeks to address his gambling addiction.

“He has no previous convictions and has worked most of his life professionally. He will never work professionally again.”

Judge Foster said: “It’s not a big business and was still in the early stages of its establishment and you have jeopardized the future of real people who had invested in the business and its five employees.

“You should be ashamed of yourself because your actions reverberate far beyond the effect on the business.”

Ho was handed a 15-month sentence suspended for two years and ordered to perform 150 hours of unpaid work, 20 days of rehabilitation activity and pay £500 in court costs.

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