Jail for double life insurance man
A MARRIED insurance worker who stole nearly £900,000 from his employers to fund a luxury playboy lifestyle was jailed for four years yesterday .Father-of-three Martin Willcox, 48, lavished expensive gifts on his 22-year-old mistress and even paid for her to have breast enlargement surgery costing £3,500 as he lived a double life.
A MARRIED insurance worker who stole nearly £900,000 from his employers to fund a luxury playboy lifestyle was jailed for four years yesterday .
Father-of-three Martin Willcox, 48, lavished expensive gifts on his 22-year-old mistress and even paid for her to have breast enlargement surgery costing £3,500 as he lived a double life.
Willcox, who earned £34,000-a-year, also splashed out on jewellery, designer clothes, expensive holidays and stays in five star hotels.
At one stage he left his wife Marian after more than 20 years marriage and set up home in a luxury rented flat in Churchman's House next to Ipswich Town's Portman Road ground.
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Willcox, from Phillips Crescent in Needham Market, started stealing after he plunged up to £70,000 in debt, partly through paying private school fees for his dyslexic daughter.
But he carried on his fraud to fund extravagant spending on himself, his family and his girlfriend, prosecutor Simon Spence told Ipswich Crown Court.
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Willcox pocketed cash after authorising payments to settle non-existent insurance claims made by bogus companies which he set up.
He first stole £106,279 from his employer Highway Insurance between January 2000 and June 2001 while he was a claims handler at the firm's office in Ipswich.
Then he used the same fraud to steal £764,348 between August 2001 and July last year while working as a senior negotiator in the corporate claims department at AXA insurance in the town.
Willcox was supposed to investigate large claims made on policies and authorise payments, but there was little overseeing of his work, said Mr Spence.
The firm only realised something was wrong on July 16 last year when the Royal Mail sent it back an undelivered letter containing a cheque for £16,000 which it had made out to a firm called ECS with an address in St Alban's, Herts.
The letter had a sticker on it re-directing it to Willcox at his flat in Churchman's House, a luxury block which has been home to several Ipswich Town players.
A police investigation revealed that ECS did not exist and had been set up by Willcox.
It was discovered that AXA had made a total of 53 payments to ECS and another bogus firm called Premier Claim Services which Willcox set up in Peterborough, Cambs.
Cheques were sent out by AXA to accommodation addresses and forwarded to Willcox at the flat which he rented in addition to the family home he owned in Needham Market.
Willcox made full admissions to police after he was arrested last August and confessed to carrying out a similar fraud at Highway Insurance.
He said the cash he paid himself increased over time and admitted that he destroyed incriminating evidence about claims to try and cover his tracks, said Mr Spence.
Stephen Clayton, defending, described Willcox as a gentleman and a caring family man and said the offences were totally out of character.
Mr Clayton added: "Debt built up because he desperately wanted his family to have a good life and his daughters to have a good start in life.
"His dyslexic daughter was not coping at school so he put her into private education. That led to debts of £60,000 to £70,000.
"Initially the fraud at about the turn of the Millennium was perpetrated to clear that sum, but once started the dishonesty was difficult to stop.
"His dishonesty spiralled out of control. He knew the black hole of disaster was opening, but was utterly unable to stop his headlong dive into it.
"He now feels remorse, utter shame and embarrassment. He feels he had let down his erstwhile colleagues, friends and family. He has destroyed his family life, certainly temporarily, perhaps permanently.''
Willcox admitted 15 offences of false accounting and 15 offences of deception and asked for 158 other offences to be taken into consideration.
Sentencing him, Judge David Goodin said he was guilty of systematic dishonesty and had repeatedly abused his position of trust.
He added: "While it may have been debt that took you into dishonesty, it was plainly quite simple to achieve. Having paid off the debts it is plain that the money you continued to steal funded an increasingly lavish lifestyle.
"I acknowledge that the strain of your double life must have been considerable, knowing that you had discovery looming behind you at some stage.''
Judge Goodin said he was giving Willcox credit for his guilty plea and his co-operation with police.
Willcox's friend Paul Ritchens of Billericay, gave evidence on his behalf, and said he regarded him as an honourable man and held him in high esteem.
He said Willcox may have been under pressure to commit the offences after being upset by family bereavements including the deaths of two of his brothers who had cancer.
Mr Ritchens added: "I was completely shocked when I heard of the offences. I can't believe it was the same man.''
Willcox is now believed to be reconciled with his wife who attended court with him and wept in the public gallery as he was sentenced. The name of his mistress was not revealed in court.