A MAN working as a finance manager for a small company 'jeopardised the future of its staff' after stealing £25,000 over 18 months.

Warren Ho, of Skipton Close in Newton-le-Willows, appeared at Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday, having pleaded guilty to one count of fraud.

The court heard how Ho, 30, had been hired as a finance manager in January 2017 for technology company Zedsphere, based in Birchwood.

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Johnathan Rogers, prosecuting, said: "This is a case of a man abusing a position of trust while employed.

"Ho was on a salary between £30,000 and £32,000 and was in charge of paying company invoices – a position with a high degree of trust as he had direct access to the company's bank accounts."

The court was told that the company's managing director, Rick Yates, was alerted to outstanding invoices in May last year which spanned over an 18-month period.

The defendant had been paying money on at least 30 occasions into his own bank account instead of to suppliers.

Ho made the first payment on his third day at the company.

Rogers said: "He would hide the transactions as refunds and payments to suppliers by faking invoices."

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Judge Johnathan Foster said: "Fraud against a business might seem victimless but it is certainly not – this amounted to a year's profit.

"You spent money on luxuries that the business owners could not afford."

Mr Yates was present in court to deliver a victim personal statement outlining the effects Ho's actions had. 

Mr Rogers added: "Ho has repaid the £25,000 with an additional £12,000 in cash loans."

Stella Hayden, defending, said: "The defendant understands that this is a very serious matter. He is now working two jobs to pay back his loans from the bank after repaying the amount in full.

"This is a positive aspect of his rehabilitation as he seeks to address his gambling addiction.

"He has no previous convictions and has worked the best part of his life in a professional capacity. He will never work as a professional again."

Judge Foster said: "It is not a large company, and was still in the early stages of setting itself up and you jeopardised the future of real people who had invested in the firm and its five employees.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself as your actions ripple far beyond the effect on the company."

Ho was handed a 15-month sentence suspended for two years and was ordered to carry out 150 hours unpaid work, a 20-day rehabilitation activity and pay £500 in court costs.