A company director has walked free from court over a £35,000 pension scheme swindle.
Simon Aspinall and a neighbour cooked up the scheme to defraud a university workers' fund out of tens of thousands of pounds. But the business owner was spared an immediate prison sentence after repaying the sum in full - plus an extra £30,000.
Liverpool Crown Court heard this afternoon, Friday, that an internal investigation by the University Superannuation Scheme revealed that the 54-year-old's SEA Audio Visual - of which he is one of two directors, the other being his wife - had submitted 10 separate fake invoices for work between January 2018 and July 2018, leading to him falsely claiming a total of £35,762.78. Aspinall, of Covertside Road in Scarisbrick, did so under the pretence that he had carried out services such as cabling and fitting patch panels at the USS' offices in Liverpool and London.
But no services and goods were ever provided. Ken Grant, prosecuting, said that he paid back the ill-gotten sum in full after being caught out - as well as the costs of the investigation. The court was told that Aspinall's neighbour worked for the USS and identified potential flaw to be exploited, encouraging him to submit the invoices in order to do so.
An investigation into the allegations against him is ongoing. Mark Rhind KC, defending, described his client as the "junior partner" in the con.
He added: "At the time, the company was struggling. He was £90,000 in debt and he was tempted by this promise of easy money.
"He knew it was wrong, but allowed himself to become involved against his better judgement. He was stupidly drawn in.
"He deeply regrets his behaviour and he is ashamed. He came clean and gave them the whole story from the beginning."
Mr Rhind reported that Aspinall's business subsequently recovered and "became successful". But he was then involved in a serious crash in August last year, leaving him "unfit to work and surviving off his savings".
The barrister said: "Mr Aspinall really could not have done more to assist the police and to give the money back. This is an exceptional case."
Aspinall, who has no previous convictions, admitted fraud and was handed an eight-month imprisonment suspended for a year. He was also told to pay a victim surcharge.
Sentencing, Judge Stuart Driver KC said: "There is a lot of mitigation. You are of previous good character.
"You have shown remorse and a high level of cooperation in this case, and you have repaid the £35,000 and in addition another £30,000 to cover costs and expenses. Your health deteriorated due to a serious accident which has happened since your crime."