Former sports editor jailed for £370k freelance scam

Click to follow

The former sports editor of a Sunday newspaper has been jailed after defrauding his employers of more than £370,000 through an elaborate scam involving fake freelance contributors.

For eight years Lee Horton used his senior position at The People to earn extra cash, inventing 1,690 payment claims by contributors for sums of between £150 and £390 – knowing that only payments of more than £500 had to be checked by his superiors.

He shuffled 12 different accounts for the non-existent stories, paying himself a total of £370,406. He spent the money on his daughter's education, donated to her school, gave to a Down's syndrome charity and paid for morale-boosting jaunts for his colleagues, even taking them on a golfing holiday.

Yesterday, the one-time £90,000-a-year journalist fought back tears as he was jailed for 15 months at Southwark Crown Court. Horton, whose wife is divorcing him, admitted false accounting and money laundering.

David Levy, prosecuting, said Horton admitted when he was caught to being "greedy" and "ridiculously generous" with other people's money. Tara McCarthy, defending, pointed out that he had not blown the cash on a lavish lifestyle. "He makes a stupid mistake... he has lost everything, his home, his pension and he is probably going to lose his wife. And he is never going to be able to work in the industry which he adores."