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Fraudster jailed after stealing £1.3m from employer to fund lavish lifestyle

Expensive jewellery and shoes found at Darren Mackenzie's home
Officers found a number of expensive goods belonging to Darren Mackenzie.

A man who stole more than £1.3million from his friend and employer and spent it on luxury holidays, designer goods and home renovations has been jailed for five years and eight months.

Darren Mackenzie, of Fownes Road, Minehead, was bookkeeper for his friend Max Punni’s chain of pharmacies when he used the company’s money to fund his extravagant lifestyle.

The 41-year-old was sentenced at Taunton Crown Court today (Friday 2 December) after pleading guilty to fraud by abuse of position of trust.

His deception was discovered when a fellow employee came across invoices relating to Mackenzie’s three-bed house in Ponsford Road.

And when dedicated fraud investigators began looking into both his and the company’s finances, they found he’d not only paid for construction and interior design work at his house using company accounts but had also transferred money directly into his own personal accounts and even given himself an unsanctioned pay rise.

Officers analysed more than seven years of banking records and established Mackenzie had used the money to:

  • Fund construction work and home renovations of more than £300,000 which included almost £80,000 on specialist carpentry, £50,000 on a kitchen and £10,000 on a sound system.
  • Pay for luxury holidays in destinations such as New York and Las Vegas.
  • Cover the cost of stays at five-star hotels in London including The Savoy, The Ritz and The Dorchester.
  • Fund shopping trips at Harrods and Fortnum and Mason
  • Buy dozens of expensive watches including Rolexs and Tag Heurs
  • Purchase designer clothes, luggage and homeware including Versace clothes and Luis Vuitton luggage.

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

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

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.”