TPR prosecutes accountant trustee for fraud

An accountant that used members’ pension contributions as a “personal piggy bank” has been prosecuted by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) after admitting to transferring more than £280,000 of pension funds to support his own businesses and investments.

Money was taken from the Focusplay Retirement Benefit Scheme by Roger William Bessent and put into struggling and new businesses he part owned, which were run by himself, his family and a client.

The 66-year-old converted the transfers into loans and made official minutes and records of the pension scheme falsely listing other trustees as present at meetings when they were not. About £80,000 of the total has been repaid.

Bessent, from Lancashire, used more than £120,000 to buy himself and his wife a house to rent out as a personal investment but their daughter lived in it with her partner. Other funds from the scheme were used to pay tax bills for Bessent’s accountancy business and the business of a client, to subsidise the running costs of a children’s nursery and as start-up investment capital in his son-in-law’s physiotherapy business.

TPR charged Bessent with fraud by abuse of position and making employer-related investments by way of prohibited loans – the first time TPR had prosecuted for either of the offences.

Bessent pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and two counts of making employer-related investments when he appeared at Preston Crown Court on 27 February. TPR will ask for three other counts of employer-related investments to be left to lie on file.

The case was adjourned until 29 March when Bessent, whose business is based at Navigation Business Village, Navigation Way, Ashton on Ribble, Preston, Lancashire, will be sentenced.

Commenting, TPR executive director of frontline regulation, Nicola Parish, stated:
“Bessent used the pension scheme as his personal piggy bank, transferring out hundreds of thousands of pounds for his own personal benefit and to keep his other businesses going.

"As an accountant, Bessent was someone that people would turn to for advice and put their trust in. He abused that trust and used his position as trustee to defraud the scheme for his benefit and the benefit of his friends and family. Trustees play a vital role in protecting the benefits of members. We will not tolerate the abuse of such an important job.”

Separate to TPR’s action, the Insolvency Service prosecuted Bessent for breaching a disqualification undertaking from 2017, which banned him from being a company director.

He pleaded guilty to one count of acting as a director of a limited company while disqualified at Preston Crown Court on 27 February and will also be sentenced for the offence at the same court on 29 March.

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