A CROOK who embezzled cash from two pubs in the Borders has been jailed by a sheriff for two years, writes Bob Burgess.
Christopher Pearson took the cash while looking after the books of the Cross Keys in Selkirk and the Waggon in Kelso.
Pearson also pocketed £7,439 after selling shares belonging to his wife, Clarinda.
He fiddled £33,218 from the two pubs which should have gone to the VAT man.
And when tax inspectors began a probe, he jumped on a train to Newcastle and turned to religion.
He eventually confessed to police after being reported as a missing person and at Edinburgh Sheriff Court he pleaded guilty to two charges of embezzlement and one of fraud.
Pearson – who was said to be suffering from depression and contemplating suicide – was told by Sheriff Paul Arthurson that if he had not pled guilty, he would have been jailed for three instead of two years.
Procurator fiscal Dev Kapadia said Pearson, formerly of Tranent, had been placed in charge of his family finances by his wife in September 2007.
But in November 2009, he decided to sell shares in BAE systems that Clarinda owned. He forged her signature on official documentation and pocketed the money from the sale.
On November 10, 2009, Pearson went missing, prompting Clarinda to contact Lothian and Borders Police who launched a missing persons inquiry and found him a short time later staying in Newcastle.
He told them that he had conned Clarinda out of money that belonged to her.
Mr Kapadia added: “Police made inquiries and a signature purporting to be from Mrs Pearson was also discovered.”
Pearson, who once owned a greeting cards company, then confessed to stealing £20, 327.62 from the Cross Keys in Selkirk where he had been employed between March 2008 and September 2009 as a freelance book keeper.
Police also discovered he had embezzled £12,890.84 from the Waggon Inn at Kelso while working as a book keeper between September 2008 and July 2009.
Mr Kapadia said detectives established that the cash pocketed by Pearson had been VAT payments meant for the tax man.
Defence solicitor Robert More told the court that his client stole the cash to pay off a personal debt of £30,OOO.
He suffered a nervous breakdown in November 2009 after discovering that the tax man wanted to inspect his books.
Mr More said Pearson knew he was about to be caught and fell into a severe depression. He said the con-man’s wife now wanted a divorce and his two sons were refusing to speak to him.
Mr More told Sheriff Arthurson: “He became aware that his offences were about to be discovered so he simply got on the first train that took him to the north of England. He had something of a breakdown. He describes feeling suicidal. When in the North of England he decided to join a church which gave him some consolation.
“He came forward, contacted the police and fully co-operated with them. He provided them with a full and frank confession.
“He accepts prison is inevitable. He has instructed me not to seek any alternative to custody. He has previous convictions – these stem from a time when he was travelling around the north of England and was staying in hotels and refusing to pay for services.”
Sheriff Arthurson noted that the crook had previous convictions for fraud and told him: “You have a bad record for crimes of dishonesty. I have no other choice but to send you to prison.”