Essex Journalist Jailed For Scam

7 February 2011, 00:00

A former sports editor from Essex has been jailed after defrauding a national newspaper of more than £370,000.

For eight years Lee Horton used his position at The People to defraud owners Trinity Mirror.

He invented 1,690 claims by contributors for sums between £150 and £390, knowing that only payments over £500 had to be referred to bosses.

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.

On Monday, 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.

The "professional'' and "complex'' scam began in 2000 and ended in June 2008. In August 2008, his employers launched an investigation.

In September that year Horton, of Beardsley Drive, Chelmsford, Essex, agreed to a civil judgment against him and has paid back nearly £300,000. The remainder will be repaid when his house is sold.

The court heard that in 1993 Horton was convicted of handling stolen goods when he bought a £16,000 car for £6,000.