Fine art seized by fraud investigators to be sold at auction
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Fine art and antiques seized by a fraudster who stole more than £2.4m from a Northamptonshire firm will go under the auction hammer later this year.
A vast array of collectors’ items, including Victorian-era paintings, first edition novels and original cartoon images from the likes of Scooby Doo, The Wacky Races and The Simpsons, were all seized by officers investigating the massive fraud carried out by Stephen Jellis.
Jellis, aged 53, of Greens Norton, Towcester, is now serving more than five years after he admitted 12 counts of fraud and money laundering at Northampton Crown Court in March 2017.
The former accountant siphoned off at least £2.4m from Daventry-based Rofin Baasel and its sister company ES Technology Ltd, between August 2004 and September 2015.
Jellis was reported to Northamptonshire Police in 2015 after a box file was discovered in his office which contained incriminating evidence pointing to large-scale fraud.
It subsequently emerged Jellis, who was the firms’ financial controller had, over the course of a decade, been paying company cheques to himself and writing business-related payments on the actual cheque stubs.
Graham Cheatley, a financial investigator with Northamptonshire Police who led the inquiry, said Jellis had also used company credit cards, including an American Express Gold card to buy collectors’ items from auction houses such as Christies and Sotheby’s as well as lavish holidays and at least one car.
He had even overpaid his own salary on occasions, made payments to charities from the company’s funds and arranged tickets for colleagues for events at venues like Wembley having paid for them out of company funds before taking their money for them.
Mr Cheatley said: “We managed to restrain his assets at the earliest opportunity and it quickly emerged Jellis had defrauded his employer to pay for a lavish lifestyle and amass a collection of valuable art and antiques. This was nothing but greed.
“The Proceeds of Crime Act is a powerful tool that police can use to claw-back money from criminals and sends a message to others that a life of crime does not pay.”
A confiscation hearing before a Judge earlier this year granted Northamptonshire Police the right to sell the seized assets through Gildings Auctioneers in Market Harborough in September.
By then the financial investigation team are expected to have recovered £1.2m for the victim company.
Anyone with information about a suspected fraud can contact Northamptonshire Police on 101 or report online at northants.police.uk/contact/online
Alternatively, they can call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.