Tax manager jailed for stealing £247,000 from clients
PUBLISHED: 16:37 04 July 2019 | UPDATED: 08:17 05 July 2019
A tax advisor secretly stole more than £247,000 from clients and his employer for seven years to feed his gambling habit.
Tim Bash, 58, took cash from 25 to 30 clients while working as a tax manager at Lovewell Blake in Norwich.
The father-of-five was spending £1,000 a day at the height of his gambling addiction, which was kept hidden from his family, Norwich Crown Court heard on Thursday.
Today he is beginning a three year prison term after pleading guilty to two fraud counts between October 2010 and March 2017.
Bash, of Dereham Road, Mattishall, joined Lovewell Blake in 1998 when the firm he was working for at the time merged with the company.
But in 2010 the churchgoer, who was on a £53,000 annual salary, developed a gambling addiction and would regularly visit betting shops on Prince of Wales Road.
Judge Katharine Moore said Bash "grossly exploited" the trust of his clients and employer through a "simple, but serious" crime.
The court heard how Bash stole £207,107 his clients and a further £40,477 from Lovewell Blake.
Prosecutor Kevin Eastwick said the fraud was exposed in March 2017 when the daughter of one of Bash's clients, who had passed away, noticed a discrepancy with the accounts.
Paperwork appeared to show that the woman's mother had entered into a private financial agreement with Bash, but there was no record of it on the company's system.
Mr Eastwick said: "Mr Bash gave an explanation, then changed his account and the matter was left hanging.
"But he then said he wanted a meeting [with his bosses] and told them it would not be a pleasant one.
"On March 3, he began to disclose he was struggling with a gambling addiction and estimated he took money from 25 to 30 clients."
Bash used several methods to obtain money from his clients.
Mr Eastwick said one involved getting them to pay cheques to LB, which clients assumed stood for Lovewell Blake.
But Bash would alter it to read "L Bash", which is his wife's initials. The money was then paid into their joint account.
The court heard how Bash's wife had not been aware of the money coming in as it was withdrawn almost instantly to spend on gambling.
Mr Eastwick said police were called after Bash made the admission to his employers.
He told police he had been taking money for about 12 years and said the figure could be as high as £400,000.
The court heard that Bash was charged with stealing a lesser amount as officers were only able to prove he had taken that figure.
Jude Durr, mitigating for Bash, said his client initially used money from his own account to fund his gambling habit, but turned to "criminality" as the addiction took hold.
Mr Durr said: "At the height of his addiction he was gambling £1,000 a day.
"The sums of money, when credited to his account, were almost immediately withdrawn."
He said Bash did not seek help for his addiction at the time as there was no "introspection".
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However, after he admitted the fraud he sought professional help and has not gambled since.
In a letter to the judge, Bash said he was filled with "repulsion and "remorse" having treated his clients, ex-employer and family "in such a despicable way".
Mr Durr said the stolen money was covered by insurance.
At a hearing in June, Bash pleaded guilty to abusing his position of trust and obtaining payments from customers in lieu of fictitious or inflated bills or tax liabilities.
Bash, who has no previous convictions, appeared tearful at times during his sentencing.
Judge Moore told him: "You should have sought help for your gambling addiction a long time ago."
While he has been jailed for three years, he will serve half of the sentence in prison.
A Lovewell Blake spokesman said: "As soon as we became aware of potential professional misconduct by Tim Bash, we contacted the relevant authorities and took appropriate steps with regard to Mr Bash's employment.
"Since then we have cooperated fully with the police in their investigations.
"Mr Bash worked in a highly specialised part of the firm handling personal tax matters for a relatively small number of individuals.
"We have been in correspondence with his victims and will continue to take appropriate steps in this regard.
"We are glad the matter has now been brought to its conclusion."
A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing will take place at a later date.
The detached, family home with its large driveway and pot plants is a picture of comfort.
But on April 10, 2017 came the first hint that all was not well with its occupant Tim Bash.
Prosecutors blocked any future sale of the tax adviser's house on Dereham Road, Mattishall, under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Up until that point his past suggested a quiet respectability.
He was chairman of trustees of Eckling Grange Christian care home from 2010 to 2017 and attends the Baptist Church in Dereham with his family.
One person who knew him said: "He is just a really normal guy. He seemed to lead a straightforward life."
The 58-year old had joined the Inland Revenue in 1976 and worked in the field of tax ever since.
In 1984 he became a tax consultant, working for a private firm before moving to Lovewell Blake in 1998.
As a manager in the firm's Norwich office he was trusted with the tax planning of his mainly elderly clients and it was here his fraud began and went on, and on, and on.
From October 6 2010 through to March 3 2017 he carried out the simple but successful fraud, inflating his clients tax bills, and his own charges, and taking the money for his gambling addiction.
He took £247,000, but it was never enough. It was only when a relative of one of his victims questioned why the relative had loaned Bash £5,000 that the fraud was uncovered.
It was the final stanza of the fraud for a man once referred to as the "poet laureate" of Lovewell Blake.