THEY were three businessmen who had it all: millions of pounds, fast cars and a fast-expanding company.

But today Mark Woodbridge is starting a prison sentence, while Christopher Moore and Robert Loosemore are confined to their homes with electronic tags after being released from jail early.

Their fall from grace was described by a judge as a “tragedy of hubris” after they resorted to fraud to try to boost the image of software firm Torex Retail.

All three have been handed jail terms for their part in a conspiracy to defraud the firm’s shareholders that took place back in 2006 and 2007.

Now seven years later chief executive Moore and former chairman Loosemore have lost £17m in shares, Woodbridge has been left with more than £100,000 of legal bills, and together they must pay £320,000 in costs.

But even that was described as “paling in comparison” to the £1,139,000 it has cost the Serious Fraud Office to prosecute the case.

Torex Retail had offices in Banbury and Witney and in 2006 employed 3,000 people in 12 countries but was put into administration after the investigation began.

Moore, 58, and Loosemore, 53, admitted two charges of conspiracy to defraud in January and were jailed for 30 months and 20 months respectively.

On Wednesday, former chief group accountant Woodbridge, of Kineton, Warwickshire, was found guilty after a 14-week trial of the same two charges and one charge of false accounting. He was cleared of two more charges of false accounting.

Summing up the case at Oxford Crown Court, Judge Mary Jane Mowat said Woodbridge was Moore’s “active and powerful second in command”.

While working for Torex, the 42-year-old father-of-three owned a Lamborghini and a Porsche, a house with a £1.5m mortgage and had a pension worth £170,000.

Sentencing Woodbridge, Judge Mowat said: “Clearly you are a very clever man, but you misused your skills both in committing this crime and in presenting a complex, ingenious and disingenuous defence, which the jury did not believe.”

He was jailed for three years and 10 months, disqualified from being a company director for three years and told to pay £170,000 costs.

Sentencing Moore in January, which can only now be reported, the judge told the Banbury-born businessman: “It’s a considerable tragedy of hubris and nemesis, where you overstretched your company and resorted to fraud to keep it afloat. You have lost your reputation and status, your health, both medical and emotional, has been damaged.

“The real impact of this kind of fraud is the effect on public confidence, which has been seriously tainted in recent years in the financial world, and this is just another example of that.”

Judge Mowat sentenced Moore, of Hayway Lane, Hook Norton, to 30 months in prison, three years’ disqualification as a company director and told him to pay £100,000 costs.

Hugo Keith, defending Moore, said there had been “no intention to cause harm” and his client had suffered a “devastating fall from grace”.

Judge Mowat said Loosemore was “less directly involved” but he had given his support to “fraudulent cover-ups”.

His barrister Claire Montgomery said his parents had lost £100,000 when the company went under and some of their friends also lost money. Loosemore, of Parabola Road, Cheltenham, was jailed for 20 months, given a one-year disqualification and told to pay £50,000 costs.

Torex’s former legal director Nigel Horn, 59, of The Avenue, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, was cleared of a charge of conspiracy to defraud.

The rise and fall of Torex Retail

THE Torex story dates back to 1989 when accountant Christopher Moore left engineering firm Oxford Instruments to lead a management buyout of a company called Smart Terminals, which had 20 staff.

In 1996 he organised a reverse takeover of a Devon tool hire firm, Torex, to get a Stock Market listing.

Torex started out creating cash register software, then set up a healthcare division. It merged with iSoft in 2003.

Torex then split into two, with iSoft taking over the healthcare software and Torex Retail supplying retailers.

Moore left in early 2004, then that November rejoined Torex Retail, becoming chief executive in 2005. The firm spent £400m on a series of acquisitions.

In early 2007 it issued a profit warning. Shares were suspended when the Serious Fraud Office launched an inquiry.

Torex went into administration that June, with its assets sold to US firm Cerberus for £204.4m and the Witney and Banbury offices closed. It was liquidated in 2010.

An investor, who lost £5,000 when Torex collapsed, said: “I had no idea the accounts were being messed around with. You have to rely on the honesty of the directors.

“I couldn’t see the writing on the wall, but that’s the gamble you take with the stock market.”