Brighton University finance chief David Hall has been jailed for six years for stealing £2.4 million in cash over more than 30 years.
Hall, 64, of Shepherds Way, Ringmer, used his position as head of income and payments to embezzle the money and cover up his crimes.
He stole the cash at an average rate of more than £72,000 a year from 1988 until he was caught during an audit in November 2021.
Judge Roger Chapple said: “The scale and breadth of your dishonesty over 30 years is breathtaking. Your systematic and persistent dishonesty caused enormous damage to your employer. the university, and stress and heartbreak to your colleagues.”
The judge said that Hall had damaged students, staff and the reputation of the university, adding: “I sadly accept that you got yourself into debt but that is no excuse whatsoever.
“I pass sentence on behalf of the decent law-abiding people who face financial difficulties day in day out but wouldn’t dream of doing what you did.”
Hall spent the money on holidays and fine dining, the judge said, adding: “What you did was greed pure and simple.”
Tim Devlin, prosecuting, said that Hall was convicted at Brighton Magistrates’ Court last month after pleading guilty to fraud, theft and false accounting.
After his conviction last month, Sussex Police said: “A University of Brighton employee who stole more than £2 million in cash over a 30-year period has been convicted in court.
“David Hall used his position as the head of income and payments at the university to embezzle around £2.4 million and cover up his activity through fraudulent entries in the university’s accounts.
“In November 2021, the university discovered the fraud and reported the matter to Sussex Police.
“An independent financial investigation commissioned by the university, alongside the police investigation, uncovered a complex string of financial cover-ups by Hall which were only revealed through forensic scrutiny.
“Hall admitted his offences soon after and was charged with fraud by abuse of position, theft by an employee and false accounting.”
Tom Nicholson-Pratt said in mitigation at Hove Crown Court that, when an audit uncovered discrepancies, Hall held his hands up immediately.
Mr Nicholson-Pratt said that Hall was a man of otherwise good character, with no previous convictions, had shown genuine remorse and had co-operated fully with the investigation.
He said: “He wishes to apologise to his family, some of whom are in the courtroom.
“He wishes to apologise to his university colleagues, some of whom are also in the courtroom, and also to the students who he knows he has let down so terribly.
“While he is in prison, he wants to use his education to help others with their education.”
A timetable was set to recover assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act, with a provisional hearing date set for August.
The university’s losses were uninsured, the court was told.
Investigator Rose Horan said: “Over time, Hall’s activity became more difficult for him to conceal.
“After an audit uncovered the scale of Hall’s embezzlement, the University of Brighton was quick to report the fraud to Sussex Police, and their support throughout the investigation has been invaluable in bringing David Hall to justice.
“Despite 30 years of dishonesty, the judge considered Hall’s candour once his actions were uncovered and reduced what would have been a nine-year sentence by one third.
“The university’s impact statement categorised the damage done, including its impact on fellow staff. Confiscation will take its course over the next few months but it is likely that the full amount will not be recovered.”
The court was told that Hall owned a bungalow that he inherited from his late mother and had £33,000 in a bank account that he had also inherited from his mother. His ex-wife would be entitled to a share of the assets, the court heard.