A project manager who fleeced his firm out of nearly £30,000 by filing bogus expenses claims said he spent all the money on his ‘demanding wife’.

Paul Fitch, 42, was issued with a corporate credit card which he was allowed to use for his own expenses, along with those on behalf of team members who had yet to be set up with their own.

While holding a senior role at technology consulting giants Accenture, he submitted a series of bogus claims for hotel stays and British Airways flights, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

Ellen Wright, prosecuting, told the court that when the con came to light and he was quizzed by the company’s fraud investigator, ‘he said he had modified various receipts because he had a demanding wife who he spent the money on’.

Fitch worked for Accenture between 2005 and 2019 and was based at their offices on Cobalt Business Park in North Tyneside.

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Ms Wright explained that the company had a two-stage process to ensure the expenses system was not abused.

Receipts were checked by an auditor to make sure they matched the corresponding claim and then a computer algorithm was used to check for fraud.

The prosecutor added: ‘That algorithm identified more than 400 potentially fraudulent receipts totalling £135,000. Those receipts were between August 2013 and January 2019.

‘The Crown proceed on the basis there was a loss of £28,845. So although there were more than 400 potentially fraudulent transactions, those that can be evidenced amount to that sum.’

Ms Wright said Fitch created or altered receipts using PDF software and some of those did not match transactions made on the credit card.

She went on: ‘The defendant was invited to attend an interview with the fraud investigator.

‘During that he said he had modified various receipts because he had a demanding wife who he spent the money on.’

Accenture said in a business impact statement that although they are a multi-national company, the impact of the fraud was far-reaching, adding that Fitch abused the authority and trust placed in him.

Fitch, who has a previous conviction for a driving offence, admitted two counts of fraud and was handed an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, with 130 hours unpaid work.

He must pay back the stolen money in full as compensation, plus £425 costs.

Tony Cornberg, defending, said Fitch’s unsophisticated scam was ‘always going to be found out’.

He added: ‘He was in a job in which he was completely overwhelmed. He was putting on a brave face while completely out of his depth.

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‘He found himself responsible for 60-plus employees and was managing more than 20 separate projects at work and was unable to juggle it.

‘His life was completely taken up by working overtime and not seeing his family and wife.

‘His ex-wife met someone else, the marriage was in tatters and he puts that down to the fact he was not there.’

Mr Cornberg said Fitch had a breakdown two years ago and felt suicidal but sought help.

He added: ‘He says what he did was lazy, complacent and stupid.’

Mr Cornberg said Fitch is now careful with his finances and has a less demanding but well-paid job as an IT project manager with a different firm.

The court heard he has already saved up enough money to pay back the funds he fraudulently obtained.

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