A fraudster who syphoned £1.2 million from a company to fund his lavish lifestyle, leading to 350 people losing their jobs, has been jailed for four years.
James William Burdall was left to run a group of companies by his friend, Sheffield entrepreneur Lawrence Wosskow, when Mr Wosskow developed health problems.
But South Yorkshire Police said Burdall almost immediately began to transfer cash from his friend's companies to the accounts of his own business.
Officers said much of the money was used to fund a lavish lifestyle, including an indoor swimming pool and landscaped gardens at his home, private school fees and fine art.But South Yorkshire Police said Burdall almost immediately began to transfer cash from his friend's companies to the accounts of his own business.
Officers said much of the money was used to fund a lavish lifestyle, including an indoor swimming pool and landscaped gardens at his home, private school fees and fine art.
As a result of Burdall's actions, the Out of Town Leisure Group Limited - a holding which operated a number of food outlets at shopping centres across the UK, but mostly at the Meadowhall complex in Sheffield - was placed into administration, leading to the loss of around 350 jobs.
Burdall, 49, of Cottage Lane in Bents Green, Sheffield, admitted four counts of fraud by abuse of position at an earlier hearing and was jailed for four years at Sheffield Crown Court today.
South Yorkshire Police's financial crime investigation unit began a complex and protracted investigation into Burdall's activities in July 2010, following allegations made by Mr Wosskow.
The spokeswoman said Mr Wosskow was the owner of Bradwells Ice Cream Limited as well as the Out of Town Leisure Group Limited.
When he suffered a heart attack in 2006, Mr Wosskow made the decision to emigrate with his family and he left Burdall, his closest friend, to oversee his businesses.
Officers said the businessman had no idea that Burdall was draining funds from his companies.
Tonight, Mr Wosskow said the actions of his former friend had a devastating impact on his family.
He said: "James and I had been friends since our schooldays and, after our paths went in separate directions, we met up again in 2005 through a mutual love of cycling.
"We quickly became best friends and, when I suffered a heart attack a year later, James was very supportive.
"He became my closest friend and, when me and my family emigrated for the good of my health, he was the person I thought could be best trusted to oversee my businesses.
"His actions have had a huge impact on my health and also my finances as, when the Out of Town Group was placed into administration, Bradwells Ice Cream company was also in a very precarious
"Owing to a promise I had made when buying the company in 1992, I had no choice but to honour that promise and save the company - which I did by injecting a considerable sum of money into it.
"I am very glad that he has now been brought to justice and will pay for his crimes, which left hundreds of hard-working people out of work through no fault of their own."
Graham Wragg, fraud manager at South Yorkshire Police, said: "Burdall's actions can only be described as the cynical abuse of the trust and friendship placed in him by Lawrence Wosskow.
"In his self-serving pursuit of an extravagant lifestyle, he caused the loss of the livelihood of 350 ordinary individuals and risked further damage to the health of his former friend.
"I would like to commend all those who worked tirelessly on this investigation, for several years, in order to bring Burdall to justice today."