Accountant jailed for defrauding Four Seasons residents

Steven Mason Mason used the £183,785 to buy a car and pay off debts, the court heard

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A County Durham care home accountant who defrauded £184,000 from the estates of dead residents after developing a cocaine addiction has been jailed.

Steven Mason, 37, carried out the fraud between September 2010 and September 2011 while working as a senior audit manager at Four Seasons Health Care.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the "intricate fraud" was carried out to fund his cocaine habit.

Mason, of Seaview, in Easington, was jailed for two years.

The court heard how the accountant's "spectacular" fall from grace was caused when Mason felt his job was under threat when the credit crunch started and he "succumbed" to cocaine.

Judge Howard Crowson said that may explain his offending, but in some ways the use of a Class A drug "made it worse".

Mason, who is married and has one child, admitted one count of fraud at an earlier hearing.

'Big impact'

The court heard how Mason sent emails to Four Seasons area managers telling them to send the balance of dead residents' cash accounts to his office in Darlington if their next of kin were not known.

Mason then paid those cheques into two accounts, one opened and operated by a relative and the other named Fore Seasons Limited which was opened by a friend.

He paid £183,785 into the accounts, using some of it to buy a car and pay off debts, the court heard.

Four Seasons Health Care, which has 500 homes across the UK, said the fraud had a "big impact" because the losses must be reinstated.

A Proceeds of Crime hearing will take place at a later date.

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