Chef Stephen Terry describes sentences for couple behind £150,000 fraud a 'joke'

22 May 2023 by
Chef Stephen Terry describes sentences for couple behind £150,000 fraud a 'joke'

A couple who defrauded Stephen Terry's Hardwick restaurant in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire out of £150,000 have evaded immediate prison sentences in a ruling the chef has branded an "absolute joke".

Today (Monday 22 May) Nicola and Simon Nightingale, of Kent, were sentenced to two-years in prison suspended for two years at Cardiff Crown Court.

They must both also carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and Nicola was told to take part in a 12-day rehabilitation activity.

Speaking after the sentencing Terry, who was named Restaurateur of the Year – Independent at the 2012 Cateys, said: "For them to result in getting a suspended sentence is a travesty. What kind of message does that send out? It's a joke, an absolute joke."

Nicola had earlier pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position, having been employed as a financial administrator by the chef between 2018 and 2020.

The court heard that during this period she paid herself inflated wages, made payments into her and her husband's accounts and took out two £40,000 loans in Terry's name as well as generating fake invoices from fictitious suppliers.

After the sentencing Terry said: "I believe she would have ended us… the business would have gone under. HMRC would have been knocking on my door and suppliers, she had no regard for that.

"This should be a lesson for all people not to trust, do your research, get references and be aware of how your business is being run. We trusted her and unfortunately, she didn't fulfil her job title.

"Get involved in your business because I am sure it's going on as we speak and it's an absolute killer. We have managed to survive by the skin of our teeth but we're still repaying debt. We're good at what we do and have managed to work through that."

When the fraud came to light the chef had discovered £70,000 was owed to his suppliers along with £6,000 in business rates and £10,000 in PAYE.

The total money stolen from the restaurant was £150,234.63.

The court heard funds totalling £46,741.57 had been transferred into Simon's account, and the family had enjoyed luxury holidays from the proceeds.

Simon, who was found guilty of acquiring criminal property following a trial, had claimed he believed the cash was his wife's wages along with money for shifts he had carried out at the restaurant.

During his trial, prosecutor Thomas Stanway said: "Here you have a family living the high life. Living beyond their means on the money of another.

"The contrast couldn't be starker from Mr Terry working hard in his restaurant while the Nightingales are living it up on his money."

Susan Ferrier, mitigating on behalf of Nicola, said she was now seeking help for an alcohol problem.

She added: "Buying things became a way of coping and [Nicola] became addicted, due to her addictive personality, to what she discovered she could do."

Terry has been chef patron of the Hardwick since 2005. Earlier in his career he had worked with chefs including Marco Pierre White and Michel Roux Jr.

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