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General manager and chef conspired to cook the books of Ross-shire hotel and split thousands of pounds

By Ali Morrison

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Inverness Justice Centre and Sheriff Sara Matheson.
Inverness Justice Centre and Sheriff Sara Matheson.

A Wester Ross hotel general manager and his chef conspired to defraud the owner of thousands of pounds by paying a fake employee and steering money to a relative.

Inverness Sheriff Court heard that 45-year-old James McEachern hired a teenage family member to work for 30 days at the Balmacara Hotel in Kyle of Lochalsh but paid him £8770.98 when he was only due £1980.

A total of £18,226.16 was also paid into a bank account under the fictitious name of David Smith when it was actually the account for the 53-year-old chef, Graham Smith, who was recruited by the general manager in February, 2019.


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The pair then split the money between them, fiscal depute Emily Hood told Sheriff Sara Matheson.

Both men appeared personally with McEachern of Sealladh na Beinne, Fort William admitting embezzling £6790.98p from the Spanish owner Victor Navarro between November 30, 2018 and October 29, 2019.

McEachern also pleaded guilty with Smith, of Cearnag, Chabar Feidh, Broadford of creating a fraudulent scheme by inventing employee David Smith to induce Mr Navarro to pay them £18,226.16p between June 14, 2019 and December 10, 2019.

Sentence was deferred for background reports and restriction of liberty order assessments until March 23. Their bail was continued.

Ms Hood told the court: "Mr Navarro noticed that the money being paid out at the hotel in salaries was higher than he expected, as such he requested a copy of the payroll and further information from the accounting company."

She added that another employee at the hotel, Juan Santos, met with Mr Navarro in Valencia at the end of October, 2019 and Mr Santos confirmed who worked there and who didn't.

"During this meeting it was discovered that payments were being made to a fictitious employee who had never worked there."

Ms Hood added that Mr Santos was also able to confirm that the family relative had only worked there for 30 days.

McEachern and Smith were interviewed by police in November, 2020 and they confessed to the financial offences.

Defence solicitors Natalie Paterson and Graham Mann reserved their comments until the date of sentencing.

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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