'Pathological' gambler jailed over £5m fraud

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A managing director with a "pathological" gambling habit was jailed for six years today for stealing almost £5 million while marketing a university's intellectual property.

Paul Sadler led a double life while siphoning off funds from Birmingham Research and Development Ltd (BRDL), only being brought to justice after suspicions were raised as he holidayed in Bermuda with his mistress.

The 50-year-old, who was paid around £270,000-a-year to run the wholly-owned subsidiary of the University of Birmingham, teamed up with his principal book-keeper to perpetrate the massive fraud, the city's Crown Court was told.

Judge Patrick Thomas QC heard that Sadler, of London Road, Worcester, frittered away £2 million during a decade-long losing spree at a single casino.

The judge, who jailed Sadler's co-defendant, Christine Eggleton, for two years, described the fraud as a gross breach of trust which had "broken" a highly successful enterprise.

Sadler and 51-year-old Eggleton, of Farren Road, Birmingham, both pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to conspiracy to defraud and one count of theft.

Eggleton admitted stealing £2,085,539, while Sadler acknowledged that he had taken £4,999,516 over a period of more than a decade.

Passing sentence, Judge Thomas told Sadler: "You are a highly intelligent and competent man who overcame early difficulties and earned yourself a position of great trust, great prestige and great rewards."

The judge said the profits made by BRDL, which marketed innovations and intellectual property generated by university staff and students, should have gone to support its enormously valuable educational work.

But, from as early as 1994, Sadler had set about a "perfectly deliberate and cold-hearted" fraud which had netted him a few hundred pounds short of £5 million.

"It was a simple and straightforward fraud," the judge told the defendants.

"It simply involved you fabricating invoices and everybody who knew you trusted you to be accurate.

"There is no question at all that for dishonesty of this scale, there must be a custodial sentence - the criminal justice system would be a laughing stock if people could steal million of pounds and simply walk away from court."

The judge, who noted that the defendants had brought a flourishing and productive business to its knees, then told Sadler: "You have gambled and you have lost, and you knew perfectly well that the stakes were high - and that the sentence would be significant."

Earlier, prosecutor Philip Bown informed the court that Sadler had been head of BRDL, which is no longer trading, from 2002 to 2008.

Mr Bown told the court: "The defendants used the simple but very effective means of inputting fictitious invoices into the accounting system and siphoning off money from BRDL's bank accounts into a myriad of accounts that they controlled.

"These frauds went undetected by the auditors for over ten years." Eggleton, who told police that BRDL staff regarded Sadler as a charismatic icon, was found to have purchased four properties after the offences came to light.

Subsequent civil action against Eggleton led to the recovery of £1,400,000, while around £800,000 has been recovered from Sadler.

David Mason, defending Eggleton, said his client had lost her matrimonial home and was sorry that she had let down the university.

Mitigating for Sadler, Phillip Bradley submitted that the company head was motivated by a gambling addiction of an extraordinary scale.

"The scale of his offending, which resulted from the addiction, is astounding," Mr Bradley added. "He told the police that he could spend up to £40,000 a night at a casino."