Brighton businessman thanks MP for help after £150k fraud

Posted On 17 May 2016 at 6:24 pm

A Brighton businessman has thanked his MP for helping out after a trusted employee stole £150,000 from his firm.

Christopher Hornzee-Jones, who runs the engineering consultancy Aerotrope, has written to thank Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby who stepped in when company was fined for filing its accounts late.

As a result Companies House has refunded late filing penalties of £4,500, prompting Mr Hornzee-Jones to say: “It really was the most fantastic news to hear that we will be refunded all of the amounts we had to pay.

Aerotrope founder and director Chris Hornzee-Jones

Aerotrope founder and director Chris Hornzee-Jones

“Not only will the money be very useful as part of our recovery from the criminal acts of our office manager but it also confirms for us a great sense of justice having being done.”

The office manager, Lili May, 39, of Willingdon Road, Brighton, not only stole £150,000 but directed official letters to her home address. As a result Mr Hornzee-Jones was unaware of the accounts being late and the penalties that were building up.

When he found out what had happened he paid the penalties while also asking Companies House to exercise its discretion. His request was turned down but the regulator had a rethink when Mr Kirby raised the matter.

Lili May also known as Suzanne Lili May

Lili May also known as Suzanne Lili May

May was jailed for three years at Hove Crown Court last month after her actions almost destroyed Aerotrope, which is based in New England Street, Brighton.

The business survived thanks to the efforts of Mr Hornzee-Jones, who lives in Kemp Town, and his small but dedicated team of staff. They have sacrificed pay and worked hundreds of extra hours to get things back on track.

Mr Hornzee-Jones has also made a plea for lessons to be learnt from the case. He said in his thank you letter to Mr Kirby: “I understand that Companies House originally declined my appeals because their room for discretion is prescribed by parliamentary guidance that in essence means only events occurring within two weeks of the filing deadline can be taken into account.

“On behalf of other small businesses that might suffer from fraudulent acts by employees, I wonder if the guidance could be amended to include the possibility of this kind of event being considered as mitigating circumstances?”

May had repaid just £1,355 when she was jailed and Mr Hornzee-Jones said: “It’s made a big difference to us in recovering from all this to have the penalties refunded. It was something that felt totally unjust.”

“It’s always a pleasure to be able to help constituents.

“Mr Hornzee-Jones had done nothing wrong and the late filing penalties must have felt like having insult added to injury.

“I’m delighted that I was able to persuade Companies House to look again at this matter and prompt a wholly appropriate rethink.

“Businesses like Aerotrope create jobs and have an important part to play in our economy and I wish them nothing but success as they rebuild after such a distressing episode.”

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