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Small firms’ adviser faces jail

A North-east financial adviser who specialised in the small business sector has admit- ted charges of theft, cheque forgery and deception at a court hearing.

David Hedges, 50, of Sherburn, Durham, admitted the charges when he appeared before Teeside Crown Court. He was told he faced a possible jail term when he returns for sentencing.

The court heard that Hedges had been the subject of a lengthy investigation by the fraud section of the economic crime unit of Cleveland Police.

The scale of the fraud is estimated at between £100,000 and £1.4m.

Evidence was given that Hedges had been highly reg- arded as a financial adviser to small businesses when he worked for Barclays in Newcastle, Durham and Sunderland.

But after taking a redundancy package 10 years ago, he set up his own business, Professional Business Services, offering financial advice to and investing in small businesses in the North-east. It is thought that at one point he may have been involved with as many as 30 businesses in the area.

After complaints from some of the businesses, fraud squad officers began to investigate. Shortly before the trial, Hedges declared himself bankrupt.

Local businesswoman Annie Fawcett, who traded as Nursing Staff Solutions said: “I was forced to declare myself bankrupt, lost my home, savings and business and was driven to the point of despair by Hedges.”

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