A once respected businessman who lied to suppliers and investigators in a desperate bid to keep his ailing clothing company afloat has received a suspended prison sentence.
Stuart Schlomo Hirt, 56, pleaded guilty to obtaining property by deception, making a false statement and forgery, having previously denied the allegations.
St Albans Crown Court heard today (Thursday) that Hirt, from Bushey, Hertfordshire, had built up a successful business after settling in the UK from Israel in 1977.
His children attended private school and the family enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle, after he expanded his business from just one shop in the West End.
After that went bust in the 90s, Hirt set up again under the company Emily and Sophie Ltd, and when that began to get in trouble he resorted to fraud.
When suppliers Lucia Strickwarenfabrik refused to provide Hirt with their spring collection, because he owed them £50,000, he met their agents in England.
At that meeting Hirt produced a Nat West bond, due to mature two months later, as proof he was good for the money.
The document, however, was "worthless" as it had been cashed six years earlier. But the unaware clothing company released to Hirt its Spring collection, worth £27,050.06, which has never been recovered.
Hirt’s company went into voluntary liquidation, but during investigations by the Official Receiver he failed to disclose his half of £113,000 profit from the sale of his family's home in Edgware, which was split between him and his wife.
Hirt initially claimed a "friend", later referred to as a "cousin", had been given the money.
He produced a forged letter purporting to come from the man, saying he had not received the cash.
Hirt only put matters straight when the other man ended up in court.
Tom Little, prosecuting, said: "The defendant wrote a letter to the Official Receiver saying that the money had been transferred to someone else, but really the money has been given back to the defendant."
Mr Little added: "Despite the bankruptcy, we want further work overseas with a proper investigation into what, if anything, is abroad."
Revantha Amarasinha, defending, said Hirt knew the offences crossed the custody threshold, but asked the court to suspend any prison sentence.
The court heard that after gaining a social sciences degree from Tel Aviv University, Hirt was drafted into the Israeli army. He saw active service in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and was discharged after he was injured.
After meeting his wife in the UK his "sole purpose" in the last 30 years had been to provide for his family, Mr Amarasinha said.
"His wife and three daughters sit in the public gallery, and he wanted to give his daughters the best start in life. Everything he has done has been for that end. He has worked very hard in the UK; his friends are surprised by these proceedings, as he is known to be an honest and trustworthy man."
He added: "The years of investigations have taken their toll. He has been suffering from depression and has been unable to work until recently. His wife has started working part-time as a teacher, and they live in rented accommodation.
"It would be a tragic event for them if he was sent to prison."
Judge Martin Griffith imposed a 48-week suspended prison sentence. He said: "All the daughters have written letters urging me to look at what would happen if I sent him to prison. He should have thought of that before."
However, the judge said he could suspend the sentence taking into account all the circumstances.
Hirt is already banned from being a director of a company until 2017. A confiscation hearing will take place in July.