Fraudster stole £1.3m to buy Rolex watches and fund stays at the Savoy

Watches bought by fraudster. Avon and Somerset Police
Designer watches - including Rolexs - were among the luxury items MacKenzie spent the money on Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

A fraudster stole £1.3million from a friend's business to live a "fantasy lifestyle" filled with luxury holidays, designer shoes and watches.

Darren Mackenzie was the bookkeeper for a chain of pharmacies but used the company's money to fund an extravagant lifestyle - spending thousands on home renovations, stays at the Savoy and the Ritz, Rolex watches and a £10,000 sound system.

The 41-year-old pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position of trust at Taunton Crown Court today (Friday 2 December). He was jailed for five years and eight months.

A seven-year luxury shopping spree - this is what McKenzie spent the money on

  • Construction work and home renovations of more than £300,000, including almost £80k on specialist carpentry, £50k on a kitchen and £10k on a sound system

  • Luxury holidays including trips to New York and Las Vegas.

  • Stays at five-star hotels in London including The Savoy, The Ritz and The Dorchester

  • Shopping trips at Harrods and Fortnum and Mason

  • Dozens of expensive watches including Rolexs and Tag Heurs

  • Designer clothes, luggage and homeware including Versace clothes and Luis Vuitton luggage.

Darren Mackenzie stole hundreds of thousands of pounds from his friend's business

MacKenzie was found out when a fellow employee discovered invoices relating to work carried out on his three-bed house in Minehead.

Fraud investigators discovered he had paid for construction and interior design work using company accounts.

He had also transferred money directly into his own personal accounts and even given himself an unsanctioned pay rise.

MacKenzie spent some of the money designer clothes, including dozens of pairs of shoes Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

The business' owner Max Punni said Mackenzie’s offending put his businesses at risk and therefore jeopardised health provision for people who relied on the service.

"We have sustained a financial loss of more than £1million, so one outrageous individual could live a fantasy lifestyle with utter disregard to the consequences," he said.

“I’ve only recently been struck by the enormity of this consequence and the breath-taking audacity of the crime itself.

"This has required me, as the owner, to cut staffing hours, not be paid any dividend for more than two years, double my working hours to reduce staffing costs – frequently working 16-hour days – and averaging 80-hour weeks, working seven days a week.

"Every day I awake at 4am with cold sweat, paralysed with fear. Fortunately, my faith and meditation practices mean I am able to cope."

Detective Sergeant Louise Sinclair said: “The extent of Darren Mackenzie’s deceit was astonishing.

“His behaviour was a terrible betrayal of not just his employer but of someone who considered him a good friend.

“While he was living it up, splashing the cash on luxury goods and holidays, two of his colleagues sacrificed a combined £200,000 of pay as they thought the business was struggling financially.

“He only owned up to his fraud after Mr Punni personally looked into the accounts and even then, he only made partial admissions.

“A lot of the money has been spent but using the Proceeds of Crime Act we will do whatever we can to recover as much as possible from Mackenzie to provide some compensation to Mr Punni.

“Meanwhile, Mackenzie now has a significant time behind bars to reflect on his actions.”