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Former md jailed for £400,000 theft

A FORMER md of commercial refrigeration manufacturer Norpe UK has been jailed for stealing almost £400,000 from the company.
Colin Fell who was md of the company between 1996-2006, pleaded guilty to seven counts of theft, and on Friday 1 July 2011 he was jailed for four-and-a-half years at Manchester Crown Court Crown Square.

He carried out an elaborate scheme creating fake companies and charging his employers for work that was never done by the bogus suppliers. His embezzlement funded renovating a farmhouse and giving his children a private education. So much money was stolen, it limited Norpe's profitability and workers were made redundant as a result.

Mr Fell had previously been jailed for 42 months for his part in a £1m fraud in the mid to late 80s, and following the trial has now been disqualified from being a company director for seven years.

He started working as md for Norpe UK in Stockport, the UK subsidiary of the Scandinavian refrigeration company, in 1996 and from 2002, he began to abuse his position by setting up companies and invoicing for products and services that were non-existent.

He took his family on regular expensive holidays and enjoyed a high standard of living whilst the company's profits suffered and which ultimately led to the majority of the staff being made redundant.

In November 2006 after receiving complaints about the management of its UK branch and identifying some irregularities Norpe's international financial director brought in a forensic accountant which resulted in Fell's immediate suspension.

In October 2007 the matter was reported to Greater Manchester Police and the Serious Crime Division's Commercial Fraud Unit launched an investigation. The investigation took until February 2010 to get to a stage where they were able to arrest Fell. He failed to accept any responsibility for his actions during a series of interviews and maintained his innocence until he pleaded guilty to seven counts of theft on the first day of his trial in June 2011.

Detective constable Craig Moylan, based at GMP's Commercial Fraud Unit, said: 'With the parent company based thousands of miles away in Finland, Fell's role was based entirely on trust - most people would take great satisfaction from holding such a position and relish the challenge.

'Instead, Fell helped himself to thousands of pounds by deceiving the system that the firm was paying for an elaborate array of services, lived a life of luxury as a result and, meanwhile, other ordinary people trying to make a living were left jobless as the firm went through stringent cost-cutting measures to off-set the missing money.

'Along with a well-deserved conviction, Fell will now lose the wealth he made through stealing as officers from Greater Manchester Police ensure criminals are stripped of their ill-gotten gains through the Proceeds of Crime Act and he will emerge from his sentence to a very different lifestyle.

'All of this should leave the firm, and all the people whose lives were affected by Fell's greed, feeling that justice has been done.'

Norpe UK was subject to a management buy-out under current md Kevin Raworth in 2009, changing its name to Norpe Refrigeration.

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