AN accounts manager and gambling addict has been jailed after stealing £3.8million from a family run shipping company in Basildon, forcing it into liquidation and leaving 30 people unemployed.
Paul Hawkridge, 37, of The Fairway, Leigh-on-Sea, received six years for two counts of fraud and three years for money laundering, to run concurrently, at Basildon Crown Court on Monday, November 19.
He admitted the offences at court on October 10.
Police started their investigation into Hawkridge in June 2016 after they received a call from Orient Worldwide Shipping Ltd, an international shipping company.
Police found that Hawkridge, who was the company’s accounts manager, had taken £3.8million since 2011 by creating bulk payments to the company and then transferred deposits into his own personal accounts.
He had stolen from the company that had employed him since the age of 18 and had paid for his exams before systematically covering it up over several years.
Police discovered that the majority of the cash had been spent on Hawkridge’s gambling lifestyle. Hawkridge had a gambling addiction.
He then used the cash to make overpayments on his mortgage, helping him to pay off the mortgage on his family home 15 years early.
He was arrested at his home address in July 2016.
Investigating officer DC Angie Coxon, of Basildon CID, said: “Hawkridge’s actions were selfish, calculative and devious.
“He stole millions of pounds from the very employers who took him under their wing and helped train and support him emotionally and financially.
“His colleagues were also left redundant and had to find new jobs because of his actions.
“This fraud caused devastation and trauma and had a massive impact on the victims and their families.
“The effect has been severe, the reputation of an upstanding and hardworking company has been destroyed and their futures irretrievably altered both from a personal aspect and within the shipping business.
“I hope today’s outcome offers some justice and closure to the victims and the employees that worked for the company.
“We are hopeful that we will be able to claw back some of the stolen funds for the family by submitting an application under the Proceeds of Crime Act.”