This is how a former finance chief defrauded a Harrogate bus firm of £90,000

Mark Suter, 44, falsified invoices and cheques during his time as financial controller at Harrogate-based Transdev Blazefield,
Mark Suter, 44, falsified invoices and cheques during his time as financial controller at Harrogate-based Transdev Blazefield,

A former finance chief has been ordered to pay back tens of thousands of pounds after defrauding a major transport company out of almost £90,000 and spending the money on designer and luxury goods.

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Mark Suter, 44, falsified invoices and cheques during his time as financial controller at Harrogate-based Transdev Blazefield, a leading bus firm which runs services across North and West Yorkshire.

The disgraced accountant defrauded the company over a five-year period and resigned before his ruse came to light.

He was arrested in May 2017 and admitted eight counts of fraud but was spared prison at York Crown Court in November last year after he promised to pay back “every penny”.

Suter, of Copgrove, Harrogate, was back before the court on Friday for the adjourned financial-confiscation hearing, during which it was revealed that the former book-keeper had benefited from his criminality to the tune of £94,772.

The court heard that Suter had assets or capital worth of £411,863, predicated mainly on the value of his home. Recorder Jonathan Sandiford said that due to Suter’s ample capital worth, “the recoverable amount is £94,772”.

The bus firm - whose flagship route links Harrogate with Ripon and Leeds - had already received an insurance pay-out to cover part of its losses, but Mr Sandiford made an order under the Proceeds of Crime Act that Suter be made to pay “these sums… first by way of compensation to Transdev Blazefield (and) any remainder will revert to the courts service”.

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The sum that Suter was ordered to pay the transport company in the first instance was £12,223. The remainder will also be redistributed. Suter was given three months to pay. If he defaults, he could face up to two years in prison.

Suter’s barrister Ayesha Smart said her client’s “most substantial asset is his house”.

Before his arrest, Suter was regarded as a top-grade accountant and trustworthy employee at the bus firm’s Harrogate branch in Broughton Way. But then sums started disappearing from company accounts and a “black cloud of suspicion” hung over innocent staff members as Suter began funnelling amounts into his own bank account after forging cheques and creating false invoices from fictional companies.

Between July 2012 and March 2017, he defrauded the company out of tens of thousands of pounds and spent the money on Argos gift vouchers, a £4,800 Rolex watch, Apple products and car tyres that he claimed were a “legitimate business expense”. He also deposited £9,000 into his own pension fund.

When he resigned from his £49,000-a-year job in March 2017 after eight years at the firm, his outrageous ruse had still not been discovered.

He was finally arrested two months later when the firm’s financial director noted a number of invoice irregularities and launched an inquiry.

The investigation revealed that none of the £30,000 worth of false invoices had been sent out by the company. Suter had also forged signatures on company cheques worth about £60,000, which he paid into his own account.

Following his arrest, he told police he felt “under-appreciated and underpaid” at the firm and claimed that others were given “perks and benefits” which had been denied to him, so he “went about getting them himself”.

The father-of-two initially pleaded innocent but later owned up to the fraud, blaming it on financial pressures.