HE had all the trappings of success.

Former naval officer turned businessman Adrian Leaman owned five high performance cars including a Porsche and an MG, bought a house on a £180,000 income and to complete the image, he revelled in a £100,000 plus motor cruiser.

On his wife, he lavished another upmarket car as well as two expensive eternity rings, one from top London jeweller Tiffany’s, in a bid to keep their marriage going.

A friend, with whom he had an affair, commented he always appeared to have “a very flashy lifestyle and an expensive taste.”

In reality, Leaman, 32, a former lieutenant,was a cunning fraudster who ripped off half a dozen companies into parting with £320,000 over non-existent orders.

Today, the man, said to have had the potential to captain a warship, is counting the cost – a four-year spell behind bars.

Leaman admitted 41 counts of obtaining money transfers by deception and fraud, spanning a period between June 2004 and November, 2007.

Prosecutor Peter Spink described how though his job with the companies, he was in a position where he could requisition the services of outside firms and authorise payments to them.

He then hired companies which were either non-existent or which he was a director without disclosing his interest in them.

That enabled him to produce false invoices for work that was never carried out, and as a result, he duped his bosses into paying £323,081.23.

His biggest victim was Norwich Union Health Care where he got the job of a corporate and internal communications manager at Eastleigh with false references.

For 12 months until March, 2007, he fraudulently authorised payment of invoices totalling £227,000 to two firms he ran for fictitious work.

One of them was DQ Global, a business based at Fareham. Owner Martin Doyle, who employs nine staff, said he was swindled out of around five per cent of profits.

“It is galling to think that he did this to us. It does have a huge effect on a business of our size as the marketing we apparently paid him for could have brought us in around £150,000 of profit, and that clearly didn’t happen.”

Leaman,who was described as “aloof”

with other staff, came to work during his four months with the company in a Porsche 911, which he said was bought with inheritance money.

He handed in his notice and left while Mr Doyle was on holiday. It wasn’t until the company were contacted by police that they realised they had been conned.

A spokesman for Norwich Union healthcare who spotted the scam said none of their customers were disadvantaged as a result of the scam. He added: “This case clearly highlights that we have robust financial crime controls in place and take a zero tolerance approach.”

Mr Spink told Southampton Crown Court that to support the fraud, he included his brother, his estranged wife and two lieutenant commanders in the Royal Navy as officers in the companies he ran. None had any involvement in them.

In mitigation, Peter Greenfield said Leaman had been an exceptional young officer with the potential to command a ship who had spent the money on drugs and lavishing gifts on his wife to impress her and keep their marriage intact.

“He has tried to repay the money.

He was living a lifestyle he couldn’t maintain. They were foolish and out of character actions. He pleaded guilty at the outset and is thoroughly ashamed of himself.

“His marriage had run into difficulty.

It has now gone. He has wasted all that time and money trying to win her back. He has fallen to rock bottom.”

Passing sentence, Judge John Boggis told Leaman: “Your employers were not faceless limited companies. Behind their titles are people, employees and staff, whose livelihood you put at risk.

“Your fall from grace is profound. This was a most disgraceful breach of trust and only a sentence of immediate imprisonment is appropriate to reflect your serious criminality.”

Leaman, from West Ashling, Chichester, was of previous good character.