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Paglesham councillor is jailed for £122,000 fraud
6:00am Wednesday 1st August 2012 in News
A PARISH councillor who cheated his employers out of £122,000 to live a luxury lifestyle has been jailed for 30 months.
Simon Van Houten, an independent councillor for Paglesham Parish Council, set up a bogus company to invoice his employers City landlords Rendall & Rittner for repair and maintenance work that was never carried out.
The 31-year-old ran the scam for more than two years before suspicions were raised about the massive bills.
He was able to move to an exclusive Chelsea property and live a lifestyle well beyond his means after effectively tripling his net income, the Old Bailey heard.
Passing sentence, the judge Sir Geoffrey Nice told him: “This was a serious fraud, and in large part it is unexplained.
“You had a reasonable income and, as is clear from the many testimonials that I’ve read. “You had friends and activities in life that gave you reason to be content.
“Despite all the good things that are said about you, you were prepared to expose, for a two-year period, completely blameless tenants to the loss of income of about £60,000 per year.”
Van Houten, a senior manager at the company on £42,000 a year, repeatedly invoiced his own employer using the fake firm London Decorating Company before authorising the payments.
After his fraud was discovered, he tried to convince police he was also a victim, and that a handyman variously known as “Steve Jackson” or “Steve Johnson” had disappeared with the cash.
Gavin Ludlow-Thompson, prosecuting, said: “The money came from the maintenance and service charges the leaseholders would pay each year. The defendant saw a way to exploit this system for his own gain.”
Van Houten, of Punch Bowl Cottages, Church End, Paglesham, admitted fraud by abuse of position and possessing criminal property on the first day of his trial.
By the time his lies were exposed in November 2010, he had authorised 30 payments to himself for sums ranging from £2,100 to £7,300.
None of the money has ever been recovered.
John Donnelly, defending, said Van Houten began stealing because he was “living beyond his means”, having built up £35,000 of debt from bank loans.
Rendall & Rittner has reimbursed the tenant fund, and is claiming on insurance.