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Hampstead property developer defrauded friend of more than £750,000

PUBLISHED: 13:00 29 January 2014

Snaresbrook Crown Court

Snaresbrook Crown Court

Archant

A property developer who betrayed his business partner to raid more than £750,000 from their company has been jailed.

Stephen Manuel, 62, of Redington Road, Hampstead, spent nine years plundering the accounts at Macemaster Properties while hiding the truth from friend and co-founder Stuart Jefcoate.

He fraudulently withdrew £781,000 for personal use or to plough into other business ventures from 2003 to 2012, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.

Manuel even resorted to cutting out his friend’s signature and pasting it on cheques to withdraw the money.

He set up online banking for the company without his business partner knowing, and told the bank he did not need to know about it.

Manuel, the financial director, and Mr Jefcoate, set up their firm in September 1997, and built it up to reaching a multi-million pound turnover.

In a bid to stop Mr Jefcoate finding out about the fraud, Manuel paid back £160,000 into the accounts.

But in October 2012, Mr Jefcoate checked bank records after a large sale of property on the Isle of Wight and found less than £250,000 remaining.

Manuel pleaded guilty to 12 counts of fraud and two of obtaining money transfer by deception, and has since paid back all the money owed.

This did not save him from a prison term as Judge Neil Sanders sentenced him to serve two years and four months behind bars on Friday.

Judge Sanders said that despite the large sums involved, it was obvious Manuel was not a professional fraudster.

“Although it has some, it does not have sufficient hallmarks of being a professionally planned fraud,” he said.

“It was fraudulent from the outset and over a significant period of time and there were multiple frauds.

“You have paid all the money back, but you only did so after these matters came to light.

“You are of good character and up to your early 50s led a blameless and hard-working life.

“You have shown remorse and this is something completely out of character.”

Manuel was told he would have to pay Mr Jefcoate £32,000 compensation for the loss he caused to the company and its reputation.

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