Minehead man stole £1.3m

Darren Mackenzie, of Fownes Road, Minehead was sentenced at Taunton Crown Court today (Friday 2 December). 41 year old Mackenzie pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position of trust. He stole more than £1.3m from his friend and employer. He spent the money on luxury holidays, designer goods and home renovations.

Mackenzie was jailed for five years and eight months.

Darren Mackenzie was bookkeeper for his friend Max Punni’s chain of pharmacies. His deception was discovered by chance. A fellow employee came across invoices relating to Mackenzie’s three bed house. He only owned up to his fraud after Mr Punni personally looked into the accounts and even then, he only made partial admissions. Dedicated fraud investigators started looking into both his and the company’s finances. They found he’d paid for construction and interior design work at his house using company accounts. He had also transferred money directly into his own personal accounts and even given himself an unsanctioned pay rise.

Officers analysed more than seven years of banking records and established Mackenzie had used the money to:

  • Fund construction work and home renovations of more than £300,000 which included almost £80,000 on specialist carpentry, £50,000 on a kitchen and £10,000 on a sound system.
  • Pay for luxury holidays in destinations such as New York and Las Vegas.
  • Cover the cost of stays at five-star hotels in London including The Savoy, The Ritz and The Dorchester.
  • Fund shopping trips at Harrods and Fortnum and Mason
  • Buy dozens of expensive watches including Rolexs and Tag Heurs
  • Purchase designer clothes, luggage and homeware including Versace clothes and Luis Vuitton luggage.

Mr Punni, the business owner who had been defrauded said Mackenzie’s offending put his businesses at risk. It therefore inevitably jeopardised health provision for people who relied on the service. He added: “I’ve only recently been struck by the enormity of this consequence and the breath-taking audacity of the crime itself.”

Worse still, while he was living it up, splashing the cash on luxury goods and holidays, two of his colleagues sacrificed a combined £200,000 of pay as they thought the business was struggling financially.

Detective Sergeant Louise Sinclair said: “The extent of Darren Mackenzie’s deceit was astonishing. A lot of the money has been spent but using the Proceeds of Crime Act we will do whatever we can to recover as much as possible from Mackenzie to provide some compensation to Mr Punni.”

One comment

  • Mr Punni is a very decent man and well-respected man, and it is shocking to see that he was treated in this way. The sentence is not long enough – robbing a bank would attract a much higher sentence – so what is the difference which merits this sentence? The perpetrator will be out in a couple of years but it will take Mr Punni a much longer and very stressful time to recover from this.

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