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Financial controller jailed for stealing 90,000 from property tycoon husband of Holly ValanceRoss Smith changed invoices then paid by star developers Christian and Nick CandyFiddle linked to interior design budget of One Hyde Park in London – the world's most expensive housing projectSmith jailed for two years and says theft was easy because of mogul pair's 'lax' financial controls
17:22 GMT, 17 December 2012
A crooked financial controller was jailed for two years today for stealing 90,000 from the property tycoon husband of former Neighbours star Holly Valance.
Ross Smith, 26, altered invoices to syphon cash from Candy & Candy, run by brothers Christian and Nick Candy, into three bank accounts in his name over a two-and-a-half-year period.
Nick Candy, 39, married former Neighbours star Holly Valance, 29, at a lavish wedding in Beverley Hills earlier this year.
Theft: Financial controller Ross Smith was jailed for two years today for stealing from developer Nick Candy – who married actress Holly Valance this year
Smith's fraud was discovered after bosses uncovered a string of suspicious payments on company credit cards and launched an investigation.
The Work in Progress Controller plundered client accounts linked to the 20m interior design of 15 apartments at One Hyde Park, where properties sell for up to 65m.
Southwark Crown Court heard Smith, who earned 25,000 a year, blew the stolen cash on funding his lifestyle and settling debts.
He later claimed it had been 'easy' to steal from the property magnates due to their 'lax' financial controls.
Exclusive: Smith plundered the decorating budget of One Hyde Park – Candy & Candy's top development
Stunning: This Penthouse apartment at One Hyde Park is the most expensive property in Britain costing 136million
Fraud: Smith said stealing from the Candy brothers (Nick and Holly left and Christian and wife Emily right) was easy because they had 'lax' financial controls
Jailing Smith judge David Higgins said: 'In essence you stopped to sustained criminal wrongdoing to fund a lifestyle you could not otherwise afford and you did so in breach of the highest degree of trust.
'Your behaviour was routinely deplorable and deeply antisocial and if you choose to behave in this way then you must, of course, accept the consequences.
'I do accept that this is a sad case though I have to add how you could seriously have any legal or financial ambition with your attitude is far from clear.
'You did indeed show some promise which you have of course thrown away because of your moral turpitude.'
Smith pleaded guilty to one count of fraud by abuse of position between July 1, 2009, and January 25, 2012 earlier this year.
Jailed: Smith was sent to prison for two years at Southwark Crown Court for his 90,000 fraud
Prosecutor Usha Shergill said Smith's dishonesty was uncovered after he left his job at Candy & Candy in March 2012.
She said Smith had been responsible for a number of client accounts which had 'substantial funds advanced to Candy & Candy' to pay for fixtures, fittings and equipment.
He also had access to company credit cards, used by employees to entertain clients.
The barrister said that after Smith left the firm's finance discovered around 1,100 of unauthorised expenditure on company credit cards team during a routine check.
When confronted Smith claimed initially it was just 525 but later admitted to spending 948.
He paid the firm 1,600 and wrote to Nick Candy saying 'I'm sorry for that, I was stupid'.
A further investigation uncovered the true extent of Smith's stealing.
Ms Shergill said: 'From April 2009 to January 2012 they identified a total of 26 credits to the RBA accounts in the name of the defendant.
'The credits totalled 91,849.
'It appears a total of 26,294 was credited back to Candy & Candy client accounts from Mr Smith's RBS accounts.
'What is outstanding is the sum of 65,555.'
In interview Smith told detectives: 'I got in to financial difficulties for several reasons and I then realised how easy it was and how lax their financial controls were and I found it easy to do what I did'.
For Smith, defence counsel Roger Sahota said his client had begun stealing to settle a 4,000 rent debt to prevent himself and his flatmates from being evicted.
He said: 'Basically this is a tragic case, he is 26 now and was 23 when he began at Candy & Candy.
'He's a young man with some academic promise and he's basically thrown his future away'.
Mr Sahota said Smith had not told his mother about his conviction because he was 'so ashamed he could not bear to break the news to her' and had not told his current employers.
Nick Candy and former Neighbours star Holly Valance married in a lavish 2m ceremony in Beverly Hills earlier this year.