A fraudster whose reckless spending on a lavish lifestyle led to the loss of 350 jobs at Meadowhall has been jailed for four years.
James Burdall, aged 49, had agreed to look after his seriously ill best friend’s businesses – but instead splashed £1.2 million of company cash on an indoor swimming pool, overseas property and fine art.
When the severity of his betrayal was unearthed, a company which ran several food outlets in Meadowhall was forced to shut.
Burdall, of Cottage Lane, Bents Green, Sheffield, was investigated by financial crime detectives from July 2010 after they were contacted by his best friend and entrepreneur Lawrence Wosskow. Mr Wosskow owned several businesses including Bradwells Ice Cream and food outlet company Out Of Town Leisure Group.
Burdall and Mr Wosskow had been old school pals, and became close again decades later through a shared love of cycling, Sheffield Crown Court heard.
Mr Wosskow had a heart attack in 2006 and the following year moved to Florida for a more tranquil life. Burdall, who had been a successful businessman himself, was left to oversee his businesses.
But he began transferring vast sums of cash from the company accounts into his own business accounts, and later his personal accounts.
Ian Goldsack, prosecuting, said: “The pattern of transfers and their frequency seems to have no rhyme or reason, other than to complicate and thereby disguise what was happening.”
When confronted, Burdall admitted taking money – and eventually the extent of his crimes came to light.
Nicholas Johnson, defending, said Burdall had been having health problems of his own at the time and is still under sedation for high blood pressure.
After the hearing, police fraud manager Graham Wragg thanked those involved in the investigation and said: “Burdall’s actions can only be described as the cynical abuse of the trust and friendship placed in him by Lawrence Wosskow.”
Lawrence Wosskow said Burdall cost him up to £10 million in lost future earnings – and the impact on his health is yet to be seen.
Mr Wosskow said in a statement read in court: “James Burdall is someone in whom I put all my trust.”
After his heart attack, Mr Wosskow’s life expectancy was greatly reduced. He told his children, and gave Burdall power of attorney over both his own will and his wife’s. “I explained he would take care of everything, and be like a father to them,” he said.
After the hearing Mr Wosskow, who has rescued Bradwells Ice Cream Ltd from collapse, said: “I am very glad he will pay for his crimes.”