Fargo Link and Chelmsford Taxibus taxi firm controller Daren Howarth from Braintree, who stole £86k in fares, is jailed

Chelmsford Crown Court

Chelmsford Crown Court - Credit: Lucy taylor

A taxi firm worker who pocketed more than £86,000 in fares has been jailed for a year.

Daren Howarth, 46, worked as a controller for Excellent Connections Ltd – which trades as Fargo Link and Chelmsford Taxibus.

In his role he took bookings and allocated jobs to drivers, before collecting and accounting the cash they were paid.

But between May 2014 and April last year Howarth, of Cressing Road, Braintree, stole £86,683 from the company.

He set up a fake driver account to channel the funds so the theft would not be noticed, getting actual drivers to carry out the work.

Howarth admitted the crime when interviewed by police, and later pleaded guilty at his first court appearance to theft by employee.

Evelyn Hicks, mitigating, said Howarth was battling a gambling addiction which came to the fore after the death of his father in 2014.

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She added: “He made a full admission to police immediately so there were no suspicions on anybody else.

“It was not the most sophisticated way of taking money but it was planned and the planning is accepted.

“This is a man who has got dependent children. His home is heavily mortgaged and his wife cannot pay the mortgage without him and his family may be out on the streets.

“This is a man who will lose everything and perhaps his wife and children.”

Mrs Hicks added that Howarth had a new job, and wanted to repay his former employer.

Recorder Kenneth Carr, sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court today (February 7), said he was unable to suspend the year-long prison term due to the amount of money stolen, the long duration of the theft and the element of planning by setting up “ghost” accounts.

“There was a high degree of trust which you breached,” Recorder Carr said. “I accept you will not have been keeping up with the amount of money you took but it is a substantial amount.

“You have no previous convictions and I accept your remorse is genuine, as evidenced by you handing back the wages given to you when you left.

“I also accept you have taken some steps to address your gambling addiction.

“But regrettably I cannot suspend the sentence.”

He made no order for compensation as a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing has been scheduled, but Howarth must pay the victim surcharge.