The Pensions Regulator has charged a trustee with fraud by abuse of position, after he admitted transferring more than £280,000 of pension funds to support his own business and investments.
The action was taken against Roger William Bessent an accountant who acted as a trustee and administrator to the Focusplay Retirement Benefit Scheme.
Bessent pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and two counts of making employer-related investments by way of prohibited loans when he appeared at Preston Crown Court on 27 February.
This is the first time TPR has prosecuted for either of these offences.
Bessent, from Lancashire, used more than £120,000 to buy himself and his wife a house to rent out as a personal investment. However his daughter, and her partner then lived in this property.
Other funds from the scheme were used to pay tax bills for Bessent’s accountancy business and the business of a client. Funds were also used to subsidise the running costs of a children’s nursery and as start-up investment capital in his son-in-law’s physiotherapy business.
Only £80,000 of these pension funds have currently been repaid.
The 66-year old admitted making these transfers, which he converted into loans. Bessant also made official minutes and records of the pension scheme falsely listing other trustees as present at meetings when they were not.
The case has been adjourned until the end of March, when Bessent will be sentenced.
TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation Nicola Parish says: “Bessent used the pension scheme as his personal piggy bank, transferring out hundreds of thousands of pounds for his own personal benefit and to keep his other businesses going.
“As an accountant, Bessent was someone that people would turn to for advice and put their trust in. He abused that trust and used his position as trustee to defraud the scheme for his benefit and the benefit of his friends and family.
“Trustees play a vital role in protecting the benefits of members. We will not tolerate the abuse of such an important job.”
Separate to TPR’s action, the Insolvency Service prosecuted Bessent for breaching a disqualification undertaking from 2017, which banned him from being a company director.