A man who authorised thousands of pounds of fraudulent payments into his own accounts in just five months as a leisure company’s finance manager has escaped being jailed.
Jason Cherrington had pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud by abuse of a position of trust while working for Active Nation UK Ltd at the Hatton Rock Business Park, between Warwick and Stratford.
Cherrington (37) of Frederick Neal Avenue, Eastern Green, Coventry, was sentenced to 20 months in prison suspended for two years, with drug rehabilitation and a rehabilitation activity.
Sentencing him at Warwick Crown Court, Recorder Penelope Stanistreet-Keen also imposed an 8pm-6am curfew for two months to ‘make sure you don’t disappear on a bender,’ and ordered him to pay £340 costs.
Prosecutor Raj Punia said that Cherrington was employed as finance manager by Active Nation, which operates sports and fitness facilities across the country, in April 2019.
But he was dismissed in September that year because he had failed his probationary period – and it was only after he had left that his dishonesty came to light.
His job had given him access to the company’s finances, and he was authorised to make payments of up to £2,500.
The person who took over his role noticed an unusual payment reference, supposedly made to a supplier called J Foy for £2,472 - but not made out in the normal form.
A check was then carried out on Cherrington’s bank account which had a credit which seemed to match that payment.
Realising it had not been a genuine transaction, an investigation began which showed that in August and September 2019 Cherrington had put through 12 bogus payments totalling £18,637.
Of those, 11 were made into two of his personal accounts, while the 12th payment of £2,423 had gone into that of a friend who was then spoken to by the police.
He explained that Cherrington had asked to use his account, and he had agreed, not suspecting anything dishonest, and had then transferred the money to Cherrington.
When Cherrington was arrested, he said that in 2019 he had been gambling and drinking more than he had ever done, and had debt issues, and made full admissions of what he had done.
William Douglas-Jones, defending, said: “Mr Cherrington admitted his conduct in interview in a full and frank manner, and my mitigation is focussed on the suspension of any custodial sentence Your Honour feels appropriate.
“There was some nine months between the interview and the first appearance in court, so this matter was hanging over him for quite some time.”
He said Cherrington’s previous conviction for drink-driving was ‘indicative of his alcohol issues,’ and at the time he was gambling to try to tackle debt issues.
Mr Douglas-Jones said Cherrington now had a new job and had not told him employer about the case when he entered his plea, but had now done so and is to attend a meeting with a director – but hoped to keep his job.
He had also initially failed to tell his partner of 19 years, who is a solicitor, and, with a young son, she would struggle if he was not there.
And Mr Douglas-Jones said that although there was no formal application for compensation, Cherrington had indicated that he could afford to pay £400 a month.
Sentencing Cherrington, Recorder Stanistreet-Keen told him: “You had over a five-week period defrauded that company out of £18,637.
“You had been taking the money because your personal debts were out of control due to your gambling and alcohol abuse.
“I am concerned that you have continued to work in the finance sector, and you had not told your employer.
“I am told you now have, but you have a habit of only telling the truth when you have no alternative.
“I know little of the impact on the company, but no company can lose that amount of money without some impact.”
Telling him she was prepared to suspend the sentence, she added: “It seems to me you are at a crossroads. The curfew is to make sure you don’t disappear on a bender for days at a time.”