A St Ives man who defrauded a long-time friend out of more than £5 million in a scheme “driven by greed” has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Edward Tully, of Meadow Lane, St Ives, admitted theft, fraud by abuse of position and furnishing false information after it was discovered that he had taken money from three companies.

Over six years Tully took money from the companies whose UK interests he oversaw and were owned by his long-time friend Allen Skolnick, who was based in the US.

Tully first met Mr Skolnick as a business colleague in the 1980s and the two established a friendship spanning 25 years, prior to the fraud being discovered.

Detective Sergeant Lee Nelson, from the City of London Police, said: "Tully lied to his friend of 25 years to cover up the sheer scale of his crimes. He only admitted his guilt when faced with no alternative.

"This was a crime driven by greed in which Tully took advantage of his friendship with Mr Skolnick and his position of trust as an accountant.

Between January 25, 2005, and July 19, 2011, Tully was given an increasing level of responsibility for Mr Skolnick's UK business interests which made it possible for him to make unauthorised payments to fund his luxury lifestyle.

Inner London Crown Court heard, on March 22, that the 62-year-old used the money to build his own house, financial support for his accountancy practice, renovations to a hotel he owned, and general cash to support him.

The victim, Mr Skolnick, had made several requests to Tully for funds to be transferred from one of the company's UK accounts into an account in the US. The funds were never transferred.

Tully admitted that he had taken and used money from the companies for his own personal use in a phone call that was recorded by Mr Skolnick in July 2011.

Mr Skolnick died in April 2013 having tried to recover the money from Tully, with the fraud reported to the City of London Police on July 11, 2014, by Mr Skolnick's UK legal representatives.

During the investigation the force worked with banks and businesses that had contact with Tully to piece together the unauthorised cheque payments totalling £4,130,808 and additional transfers from accounts totalling £949,893 used by Tully to fund his lavish lifestyle.

It was also revealed that mortgage payments were left unpaid and the property development owned by Mr Skolnick was repossessed, although Tully led Mr Skolnick to believe the apartments had been sold or let.

"We hope that the sentence serves as a warning to those who abuse their positions to commit fraud. This is justice that sadly Mr Skolnick will never know," DS Nelson added.