A UK-based accountant who acted as a pension plan trustee and administrator has admitted to unlawfully transferring more than £280,000 ($370,603) of pension funds to support his own businesses and investments, according to The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
Roger William Bessent pled guilty to five counts of fraud and two counts of making employer-related investments. It was the first time TPR had prosecuted anyone for fraud by abuse of position and making employer-related investments by way of prohibited loans.
Fraud by abuse of position carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and making a prohibited employer-related investment carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. Bessent’s sentencing has been scheduled for March 29.
“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,” Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, said in a release. “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.”
According to the charges, Bessent took the money from the Focusplay Retirement Benefit Scheme and put it into struggling and new businesses he part owned, and which he ran with his family and a client. TPR said he did this by converting the transfers into loans, falsifying official minutes and records of the pension, and listing other trustees as present at meetings when they were not. TPR said that approximately £80,000 of the total has been repaid.
According to the regulator, Bessent used more than £120,000 to buy himself and his wife a house to rent out as a personal investment, despite the fact that their daughter lived in it with her partner. Other funds from the pension were used to pay tax bills for Bessent’s accountancy business, subsidize costs of child care, and as start-up investment capital in his son-in-law’s physiotherapy business.
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 pled guilty to one count of acting as a director of a limited company while disqualified.
TPR also said that a former head of a charity for the disabled will be prosecuted on suspicion of having defrauded the charity’s pension.
The regulator said Patrick McLarry faces a charge of fraud for allegedly transferring more than £250,000 from the pension of Yateley Industries for the Disabled, while his wife, Sandra McLarry, faces four charges of money laundering. This is the first time that TPR has brought a prosecution for the offense. Money laundering carries a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment.