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Former Activision U.K. PR executive pleads guilty to embezzling Call of Duty money (Updated)

Image Credit: Activision

Updated at 4 p.m. Pacific with Kirton’s official job title.

Kathryn Kirton, former senior manager of public relations at Activision U.K., pleaded guilty to embezzling Call of Duty funding to live it up — and was apparently fearless in doing so. Her celebrity lifestyle included an engagement party at an exclusive central London venue, a stay at a luxury hotel with her fiancé, and three designer shopping sprees — and she reportedly invited her boss to the engagement party the company would later unknowingly pay for.

Kirton admitted to using a total of £18,963 ($28,939) of company money intended for funding the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops. Kirton commissioned Frank PR consultant Jamie Kaye to help with the game’s launch. Kaye is also a defendant in the case, and admitted to stealing £5,000 ($7,630) from Activision. At least one of the shopping sprees and the two-night stay at the luxury Bagington House hotel happened in 2010.

GamesBeat reached out to Activision’s PR agency for comment on the matter and will update accordingly.

Kaye made the fraudulent purchases on his company credit card. He later invoiced Activision, which Kirton authorized, charging the money back to the publisher.

One such example, according to the U.K.’s Daily Mail, included buying £5,506 ($8,402) worth of designer clothes shopping for herself and her then-fiancé, Lee Kirton, on the Frank PR company card. She later authorized the reimbursement of that money to the external PR agency describing it as clothing for a magazine shoot connected with a Call of Duty launch. Prosecutor Kevin Dent said that “the clothes purchased have … nothing to do with Modern Warfare or any such game.”

Activision became suspicious of the charges, and investigators uncovered the fraud in February 2011.

Judge John Hillen of the Blackfriars Crown Court seemed more sympathetic than angry, saying that they were “in a position of considerable responsibility,” but adding that “there was repeat dishonesty over a period of months. There is no doubt your wickedness deserves a severe sentence.”

Hillen didn’t give Kirton jail time, saying that it would have a “devastating effect” on her 2-year-old son. Instead, he sentenced Kirton to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years. He sentenced Kaye to nine months, which he suspended for 12 months. Kaye will also have to put in 80 hours of unpaid work.


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