‘Walter Mitty-type character’ sentenced for defrauding Rugby firm

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AN INSURANCE salesman who got business customers to make payments into his own bank account instead of to his Rugby-based employers has been given a suspended jail sentence.

Darren Partridge had originally denied 11 charges of fraud when he appeared at Warwick Crown Court more than a year ago – but finally admitted eight of the charges in January.

And following an adjournment for reports to be prepared on him Partridge, 38, of Benton Green Lane, Berkswell, was sentenced to eight months in prison suspended for two years.

Partridge, who dishonestly obtained more than £18,000 through his frauds while working for Rugby-based Equity & General, was also ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work, to pay £250 costs and to take part in a victim awareness course.

Matthew Barnes, prosecuting, said Equity & General, of Corporation Street, Rugby, deals mainly in public liability insurance for businesses, and joint managing directors Allen Bloor and Ann Pegler employ salespeople to contact clients.

Partridge began working for the company in September 2009 as a self-employed salesman on a commission-only basis of 10-20 per cent of any premiums received as a result of his work.

After a few weeks, based on a forecast he had prepared of the business he was confident he could create, he proposed a new arrangement with the company.

His plan was that he would generate enough business to cover all the overheads of E&G, including salaries and rent, in return for which he would receive 70% commission on all the business he generated, including a deal he was about to complete with a London borough.

His proposal was accepted – but the predicted income for the company did not materialise.

By February 2010 it appeared that Partridge was only making small sums of money for E&G, and he would often turn up for work looking dishevelled - and at the end of May it became clear he had been taking clients’ money for himself.

He did so mainly by giving clients, including Birch Utilities and a company called Natural Air, his own bank details rather than those of E&G for premiums to be paid into.

But he also used one client’s payment to cover another client’s insurance and got a cheque for £6,900 made out in his father’s name and paid it into his father’s account.

Fortunately, despite Partridge’s dishonesty, all the companies were in fact insured, with the exception of a business called IDS which had paid to insure their building but which ended up being uninsured for some months.

Altogether Partridge obtained a total of £18,046 with E&G being the main loser to the tune of £14,149 although Birch Utilities lost £3,647 and IDS lost £250, said Mr Barnes.

When he was arrested Partridge denied any dishonesty, claiming he had not intended to keep the money but that he was in dispute with E&G over money he claimed he was owed, so he had decided to divert payments to his account to cover that.

But Mr Barnes added that in fact Partridge’s poor commission payments were down to his own under-performance.

Tony Bell, defending, argued: “Effectively what he has done is obtain credit from his employers through fraud. He was writing business for E&G and was not receiving any income from them, and one can see how desperation set in.”

Recorder Richard Atkins QC told Partridge: “I wonder whether there’s something of a Walter Mitty-type character about you. You came up with the idea you were going to generate a lot of business, but it doesn’t seem you earned very much at all.

“This was dishonesty in breach of trust, and it was clearly thought out and persistent over a number of months.”