A swindler who "devastated" small Northamptonshire businesses by swiping over £230,000 from their accounts has been jailed.
Matthew Clipstone, 36, from Kettering, lied to small companies for years that he was a chartered accountant and was often given complete control of their bank accounts and ledgers.
But Northampton Crown Court heard yesterday (August 2) how he was, in fact, pocketing thousands of pounds at a time from his victims and pushed many of them to the point of insolvency before he was discovered.
His victims have been left to carry hundreds of thousands of pounds of debt to HMRC as Clipstone spent the money on houses, cars and holidays.
In sentencing, His Honour Judge Michael Fowler said: "There was a massive abuse of power and of the trust and control of these businesses.
"I'm not satisfied that [Clipstone] is a man that can be trusted. I'm not satisfied that, if put in a position of trust, he would not offend again."
The court heard how Clipstone lied that he was a chartered accountant to be trusted with the books of four companies in Kettering over the course of seven years.
He made direct transfers to his own bank account, deregistered companies from HMRC so he could pocket their VAT payments, and was even trusted with blank cheques to pay off debts - which he then used to line his own coffers.
But investigations by HMRC uncovered his swindling, and the victims - many of whom had no idea what was happening - were hit by the discovery they had been conned.
The court heard how one victim felt he had been financially "wiped out" by Clipstone's crimes, and was now paying back thousands of pounds a month to HMRC. Other companies faced insolvency and one folded outright.
Clipstone pleaded guilty to the offences earlier this year. Yesterday, he was jailed for five years. He has also been disqualified from acting as a director of a business for 12 years.