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Former Rossendale United chairman admits stealing more than £20,000
10:00am Saturday 9th March 2013 in News
A FORMER football club chairman has been jailed after stealing more than £20,000 from a legal firm.
Stephen Draper, 44, pleaded guilty to 16 counts of theft from Walkers Solicitors in Rossendale.
The thefts took place between 2003 and 2010 while he was working as a conveyancer.
Directors at the Rossendale business said they had used their own money to pay back some of clients’ funds.
The actions of Draper, along with letting agency worker David Stubbs, were uncovered in an internal investigation at the Waterfoot practice in 2010.
He admitted the charges and was jailed for 16 months at Manchester Crown Court.
Directors said Draper was immediately suspended and reported to police when they noticed money was missing.
Draper, of Goodshaw Avenue North, Goodshaw, was Rossendale United’s chairman from 2003 to 2004.
He was arrested by Lancashire police in July 2011 before being charged in August 2012.
Stubbs, 45, a long-serving manager at the Haslingden branch of Thompson and Partners letting agency, was jailed for 12 months after he pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering, amounting to almost £5,000, at Manchester Crown Court.
Janet Sime, a director at Walkers, said: “We are acutely aware that this has been a difficult time for our clients our staff and ourselves, and are pleased to finally see the case concluded.
“The public should be aware that these offences occurred in the years up to 2010. Since that time, Walkers has introduced tough new procedures.
“The majority of the losses were sustained by Walkers itself, but in those cases where there has been any detriment to our clients arising from Mr Draper’s criminal activity, this is being reimbursed by the continuing directors personally.”
The Crown Prosecution Service said Draper had created false surpluses in some clients’ accounts, and that Stubbs had assisted him in reducing those surpluses by cashing fake cheques.
The Council for Licensed Conveyancers said Draper had not renewed his licence since 2010.
Steve Thompson, senior partner at Thompson and Partners, said Stubbs, of Helmshore Road, Haslingden, was asked to leave the company when he was arrested in February 2012.
Mr Thompson said: “He hasn’t been in the office since. None of our clients or tenants have been affected by Mr Stubbs’ actions.
“All of our accounts have been checked by a chartered accountant. We can hold our heads high.”