A disqualified Bristol accountant who advised on tax rebates and investments has been jailed for five years for defrauding clients out of more than £300,000.
Michael Wike, 55, admitted a series of theft and fraud charges when he appeared before Bristol Crown Court.
The court heard that Wike continued to advise clients on a personal basis even after he was disqualified and banned from being a company director.
When he got into debt through another failed business venture, he began to keep money that was given to him to invest.
He also kept £55,000 in tax rebates received for clients. Among those who he defrauded were friends and family.
Prosecutor James Patrick said that one couple had consid- ered ending their lives after they lost their pension and were forced back to work due to Wike’s actions.
In mitigation, it was said that Wike had not spent the money on high living but on trying to save his business.
But passing sentence, Judge Michael Longman said: “I have no doubt that the number of your victims well exceeds the number of charges to which you have admitted. You have embarked on a determined course of premeditated fraud and dishonesty. You offered your services to hard working people of mostly modest means. Their losses were ones that they could ill afford.”
Wike had previously been jailed for a year after he defrau- ded a Bristol couple out of £6,000, claiming he would use it to pay off their business debts.
A spokesman for Bristol police said after the case it was unlik- ely that any of the money would be recovered.