Martin Evans appeared for the Crown in this remarkable confiscation application where a convicted fraudster had made tainted gifts to a professional escorts in order to dissipate the proceeds of his crime.
Paul Hopes, 58, defrauded Toys R Us of £3.6 million to spend on professional escorts and expensive cars. He was jailed for seven years.
He had worked for the company for 23 years. Although he had a £56,000 salary, he set up a bank account in the name of one escort, Dawn Dunbar,to siphon off his criminal property.
During trial, the court was told that Hopes met Dunbar on her first day of work at a Reading massage parlour and saw her there for a month before persuading her to leave her job. He gave her gifts of money, claiming that he had received a £200,000 bonus and cashed in £900,000 in shares, neither of which was true.
His Honour Judge Stephen John questioned how such a “simple fraud” could have taken place at a large company such as Toys R Us.
Hopes wrote cheques of up to £47,500 for other women. The court was told that he spent up to £800 on his cocaine habit each time he met one of them.
Ms Dunbar was also gifted a £132,000 Bentley by Hopes, who told her: “Every girl loves a Bentley.”
In total she received £1.5 million from Hopes, part of which she used to buy a £310,000 house. She was also given a Toyota Land Cruiser worth £31,000 and a £42,000 Lexus. Another escort bought land in Nigeria with her money, while the mother of another was given cash to support a business she had set up.
Hopes’s deception came to light when it was falsely suspected that Ms Dunbar was a drug dealer because of the luxurious life she was leading.
The judge went on to say that he was surprised by the systems then used by Toys R Us, which has since made changes to its accounting procedures.
Earlier this week, His Honour Judge John yesterday made a confiscation order in the sum of£3.36million of the £3.68million Hope took with a 10 year term of imprisonment in default.
Martin Evans appeared on behalf of the Crown
In response to the claim that the Dunbar had received 'tainted gifts' she claimed that she was able to charge an £20,000 a week for her services.
The Judge said: ‘The amount is not £500 a week. It is not £1,000, or even £2,000 a week. It is £20,000 a week. How do you manage to evaluate your services – at £20,000 a week? How do you justify that?’
Miss Dunbar answered: ‘It wasn’t me that was putting the worth on that. It was Mr Hopes paying what he thought it was worth.’
She went on to say: ‘Everything I received was a payment for my services and for him to see me exclusively.’ She was not his lover, she maintained, and was simply providing services in return for payment.
Her claim was, on the Crown's case, a fabrication in order to prevent those assets from forming part of the Order on the basis that they were not tainted gifts but, instead, legitimate payments for value. The Court accepted Martin's submissions on the issue.
Receivers were appointed to chase the missing cash could seize a £25,000 Lexus GS300 Miss Dunbar bought for her father, a £30,000 Toyota Land cruiser she bought for her husband Martin Iheanacho, and her own runabout, a £42,000 Lexus RS400h 4x4 car.
The enforcement team are to proceed against properties she bought, both in the UK and a £60,000 plot of land in her husband’s native Nigeria.
Another hearing into £600,000 Hopes handed over to Tanya Wieck is due in coming weeks.
Acting Detective Chief Inspector Dave Edmonson, head of the Thames Valley Police Economic Crime Unit, said: “This is sadly yet another example of a long-standing member of staff who was able to abuse the position of trust that he held to systematically steal from his employers for his own benefit.
“Although [it is] difficult, businesses should strive to ensure that they have an anti-fraud culture and have checks and balances in place to avoid unscrupulous staff from taking advantage of the positions that they hold.”