Con artists jailed for cheating Black Country tap company out of £107,000

Michelle Blackman (left) and Christopher Minott (right) have been jailed for the fraudulent activity Credit: West Midlands Police / BPM

The first pictures have been released of two con artists who helped cheat a tap firm out of £107,000.

Michelle Blackman, the accounts administrator for the kitchen tap company, and her friend Christopher Minott, an IT salesman on a six figure salary, have been jailed after transferring huge amounts out of the company's account "in chunks" over a four-year period.

The pair went undetected for years and were found out when staff at the Black Country firm decided to carry out checks during the Covid pandemic.

The fraudulent activity started when Michelle Blackman, of Wood Leasow, Bartley Green, was appointed as accounts administrator for Triflow Concepts Ltd in 2016.

The company was tricked by Blackman, who was a 'trusted' employee and responsible for paying creditors and invoicing.

She was taking the cash by transferring it to herself, saying it was owed to creditors.

Minott, 44, let his social media friend, 48-year-old Blackman, move her ill-gotten gains into his bank accounts after she stole massive amounts of money from her bosses.Minott was working in IT sales and earning a six-figure salary at the time, but the dad has now been locked up for his offending.

They were spotted when bosses decided to assess the business as the Covid pandemic hit and a review of its costs was undertaken in March 2020.

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard how neither of the convicts were in 'dire financial straits' when they targeted the Black Country company.When they assessed their expenses they found "unexpected increases" and requested a breakdown of expenditure from Blackman.

They discovered Royal Mail, which was often invoiced for delivering the company's parcels, had been supposedly paid £15,803.89, but the 'overpayment' was not received by Royal Mail and instead had gone to a different bank account than usual.

The pair appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Thursday (13 October)

Mum-of-three Blackman told bosses she could not provide an explanation for this and continued in her role.

Just four days later, she prepared an invoice of £880 for so-called business 'Pen and Ink' which used the bank account details matching those of the Royal Mail payments.

An internal investigation was then launched, with Blackman stating she had been under a lot of stress and the father of one of her children had recently died.

The probe revealed a number of payments totalling almost £107,500 had been made to two bank accounts.

Investigations also found that Blackman and Minott - who worked in I.T sales - were friends on social media.

Blackman had been moving the money, with Minott 'facilitating' it by allowing the cash to pass through his accounts as part of 26 separate transactions.

She briefly stopped stealing from her employer and had "vague aspirations" to give it all back but alleged debt problems worsened and she went back to pinching the cash.

The mum - who worked for her friend's events management business before being jailed - has since expressed 'heartfelt remorse' for her 'misguided and short-sighted' offending.

In a victim impact statement, general manager Michael Southall said the incident caused him "a lot of stress and additional work".

Harpreet Sandhu KC, defending dad-of-three Minottt, said the defendant had also 'expressed remorse'. The 44-year-old has a previous conviction for possession of class A drugs, as well as two cautions for offences of violence.

Sentencing, Judge Rhona Campbell said Blackman spent the money on clothes, jewellery and car payments. She added: "These are greedy, unpleasant offences - taking money that was not yours, that you had not earned, in order to enhance your own circumstances when you had no deserving right to it at all.

"We are not talking about a situation where either of you are in dire financial straits. It's not a one-off - it's planned on 26 deliberate and separate occasions."

Blackman has been jailed for three years after admitting fraud by abuse of position between May 2016 and May 2020.

Minott admitted two counts of possession of criminal property, and a further count of concealing, disguising, converting or transferring criminal property.

He was jailed for two years and eight months.