TWO fraudsters have been jailed for lucrative corruption over fire service contracts.

Corrupt IT manager John Reynolds helped supplier Wesley Mezzone get highly competitive work supplying East Sussex Fire and Rescue (ESFRS) with phone and computer equipment.

Electrician Reynolds earned more than £30,000 out of the crooked relationship between 2010 and 2013.

On Monday the pair were both jailed after being convicted of corruption and bribery offences following a trial at Lewes Crown Court.

Reynolds, 48, of The Hydneye, Eastbourne, started working as a networks manager for ESFRS in 1999 and was in charge of buying new computer and communications technology for service.

He left in 2013 with questions being asked about his work and auditors were asked to check procurement records.

It emerged that between June 2010 and July 2013 he had disclosed rival bids for computer equipment supply to company Mason IT Ltd, recommended that ESFRS bought from Mason IT Ltd, and received personal payments from the company, based in Gloucester Place, Brighton.

Police discovered this had been an arrangement between Reynolds and Mason IT's account director, Mezzone, 35, of Ridge View, Brighton.

It is thought the pair met while working together on another project several years previously.

Detectives raided Reynolds and Mezzone's homes and Mason IT Ltd's offices.

Reynolds was also convicted of stealing £70,765 worth of computer and telecom equipment and a pager from ESFRS, understood to have included Ordnance Survey DVDs.

Reynolds was found guilty of theft by employee, fraud by abuse of position, corruption, bribery, and false accounting.

He was jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Mezzone was found guilty of corruption and bribery. He was jailed for one-year-and-a-half.

A spokesman for ESFRS said of Reynolds: "This was an isolated case and it is difficult to accept a member of staff so badly abused the trust the authority had put in them.

"His deliberate and sustained pattern of behaviour has betrayed the public whom the authority is here to serve and naturally this matter has been taken very seriously.

"The authority is actively exploring whether we can recover any of the money illegally obtained by the guilty individuals.

"It would also like to thank those involved in bringing this successful prosecution to the courts."

The fire service was unable to confirm at press time last night the value of the contracts.

A Sussex Police spokesman added: "The successful prosecution of the pair was achieved through partnership working with ESFRS, East Sussex County Council and Sussex Police."


AS HE begins his 20-month prison sentence Wesley Mezzone must be wondering how such a successful, driven young businessman can find his fortunes reversed so dramatically.

Less than two years ago he was the driving force behind an IT company which was almost doubling in size from year to year.

He had successfully made the risky switch from employee to small business owner, and was well respected in his industry, praised for providing “excellent, honest service” and being a “focused sales director.

His company had even won a highly prestigious award, and the sky looked to be the limit for a shining star of Brighton’s digital sector.

Now instead, having been found out for the underhand way in which he won contracts and the bribery of a public official which he used to develop his business, he will spend the next year and a half in prison.

Mezzone, 35, spent nine years working for an IT services company before deciding to work for himself.

In 2009 at the age of 29, and with the help of an IT expert and investor 20 years his senior, he set up Mason IT.

The firm was named after his business partner Stephen Mason but Mezzone was the majority shareholder.

Mr Mason now works as a consultant having left Mason IT in November 2013, shortly after detectives began investigating Mezzone. There is no suggestion that Mr Mason was complicit in or had knowledge of Mezzone’s illegal activities.

At the end of their first year in business the company had just £17,000 in the bank. Now it has over 30 staff and a turnover in the millions.

We now know that starting in 2010 – the company’s first full year of business – Mezzone was providing financial inducements to John Reynolds to give himself an unfair advantage when bidding for lucrative fire service contracts.

His company specialised in providing “scalable” computing solutions, which are much favoured by businesses with a large network of telephones.

So East Sussex Fire and Rescue represented an ideal client – and potentially a government contract which could be leveraged to win other business and grow the company.

As ESFR’s network manager, Reynolds was responsible for the purchase of new computer and communications technology for the fire service, but police discovered after he left that in return for payments from Mezzone, Reynolds had shared details of rivals’ bids for contracts and equipment.

Their mutually beneficial relationship went on for three years.

It was through this period that Mezzone’s other clients wrote glowing testimonials.

In June 2012, Dan Solomon of Cisco UK&I said: “Wesley as the director of Mason IT brings a fantastic energy and focus to his organisation.”

One, Andrew McCabe of Kohler Co, praised him for “providing excellent, honest service,” and “always willing to go that extra mile to help you out.”

And Andrew Green of Cisco systems said: “Wesley has a professional outlook and desire to win business, very focused as a sales director and business owner. He is also keen to help people in his team to meet and exceed their sales targets.”

There is no suggestion that any of Mezzone’s professional contacts were aware of the nature of his dealings with Reynolds.

Until police launched simultaneous raids on his home and his Brighton office after investigations began in November 2013, Mezzone believed that his bribery and corruption had resulted in nothing more than the growth of his business and his professional reputation.

He will not be thinking that today.