A SERIAL fraudster who embezzled more than £70,000 from his Runcorn employer is now behind bars.

David James, from Warrington, initially pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of fraud by abuse of position but the 43-year-old made a U-turn around a month before his trial was due to start.

After admitting all of the charges, he was jailed for three years and four months and ordered to pay a £170 victim surcharge at Chester Crown Court on January 10.

James committed the offences from October 2016 to July 2017 while employed as a finance manager for a manufacturing company.

Based at Manor Park, he was responsible for 18 fraudulent transactions that saw him siphon a total of £72,624.88 from the company.

James set up fake account numbers connected to 12 firms to enable him to carry out his scam.

He would pay suppliers via his company’s account and then pay the same amount into one of his own bank accounts after duplicating the invoice.

The scam came to light following invoice enquiries the company received from suppliers while James was on holiday.

After it was discovered that he had been fraudulently taking money out of the company’s account despite him having an annual wage of £35,000.

James was sacked for gross misconduct on July 24, 2017.

Following his sentencing, detective constable Katie Wardle said: “James took advantage of weaknesses in his company’s payment system to commit despicable acts of fraud while in a position of trust.

“As the finance manager, he should have been managing and supporting the company with those weaknesses, not using them for his own financial gain.

“James is a serial fraudster who shows no regard for people and companies trying to make an honest living.

“His offending has had a detrimental effect on the reputation of the manufacturing company, with potential clients going to other firms as a direct result of James’ fraudulent activities.

“The company has reviewed and updated all of its systems, procedures and processes to protect itself from fraudsters in the future and is continuing to work hard to repair the reputational damage that James has caused.

“I am delighted that he has been given a significant prison sentence as punishment for his fraudulent acts and hope that this case deters others from committing similar offences.”