UK Shipping Empire Brought Down by Essex Man, Bilked Company for $4.8 Million to Bankroll Gambling Habit

Posted on: November 21, 2018, 06:16h. 

Last updated on: November 21, 2018, 06:16h.

A British employee who stole millions from a Basildon-based family-run company to fuel his own gambling has been sentenced to six years for his “selfish, calculated and devious” actions. Those were the words of Detective Constable Angie Coxon of the UK’s Essex Police Department.

family business
Paul Hawkridge had worked for the family-run shipping business for 15 years before dhe started stealing from them. But then he made up for lost time. (Image: Essex Police/Orient Shipping Worldwide)

Basildon is Essex County’s largest burg, about 26 miles outside of London.

First hired when he was 18 years old, Paul Hawkridge spent nearly 20 years working at Orient Worldwide Shipping, which was established in 1991.

“Still family owned and run” reads an excerpt on the company’s website, “Orient Worldwide Shipping Ltd has an unrivaled expertise in integrated, worldwide, multi-modal freight services.”

The Brit had been stealing from the business for some five years, despite the fact that the family running it demonstrated care and support by paying for some of his education upgrades.

Police were first notified that something was wrong in July of 2016, and Hawkridge was arrested at his home shortly thereafter. By October of that year, the 37-year old had admitted to embezzling £3.8 million ($4.8 million) by setting up large payments intended for the company, only to divert them to his own personal account.

The resulting fraud and money laundering convictions earned him that six-year sentence.

Fraudulent Finance Manager

Hawkridge — who was still listed as Orient’s finance manager on his Linkedin page as this story went to press — is believed to have blown most of the stolen millions on his “gambling lifestyle.”

But the investigation also revealed that he used some of the cash to pay off the mortgage on his home 15 years ahead of schedule.

He stole millions of pounds from the very employers who took him under their wing and helped train and support him emotionally and financially,” Coxon in a statement.

The company has been driven into liquidation as a result of their losses, forcing its 30 employees to find other jobs. Police say they’ll attempt to recoup some of the company’s stolen cash via the UK’s Proceeds of Crime Act, which is similar to civil forfeiture in the US: both give law enforcement the authority to confiscate proceeds of illegal acts.

Borrowed Bankrolls

Stealing and scamming to fuel a gambling habit is not an uncommon occurrence, and Hawkridge has plenty of company when it comes to ill-begotten table stakes.

One such case just this month involved former New York sports radio host Craig Carton, who misappropriated $5.6 million through a fake ticket-selling scheme. He spent most of it on a high-stakes gambling habit and is facing up to 45 years in prison after a unanimous guilty verdict was handed down by a New York City jury after just a one-week trial.

Also, earlier this year, a baccarat dealer at Melbourne, Australia’s Crown Casino and his three co-conspirators were accused of collaborating to rip off the casino. While working as a dealer, Michael Huo was alleged to have signaled his accomplices on which cards were coming, thus helping to bilk his employers out of some $400,000.

The final outcome of that case was not made public or at least not picked up by Australian media sources.