Bishop jailed for stealing £186,000 from church

Gerald Edmund was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court to two years in prison for fraud and nine months each for two counts of theft

Gerald Edmund
Gerald Edmund

A founding member of a Bristol-based church has been jailed for two years after stealing £186,000 from the charity.

Gerald Edmund, 76, from Bristol, pleaded guilty last year to fraud against the Bethel United Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic, which he helped set up more than 50 years ago.

Edmund, who was described by West Midlands Police as a "self-proclaimed bishop", was due to be sentenced last August, before bureaucratic delays and a delay in receiving legal aid funding held up the process.

He was last week sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court to two years in prison for fraud by false representation and nine months for each of the two counts of theft.

The sentences will run concurrently.

The offences took place between 19 July 2010 and 9 February 2011, with Edmund cashing cheques of up to £10,000 at a time, making a money transfer out of the country for £14,000 and repeatedly stealing petty cash.

Bethel United Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic has churches in England and Wales, the USA, Canada, Jamaica, Cuba and Nevis, and operates missions in India and Kenya. It has been registered with the Charity Commission since 1995.

The commission’s register of charities shows that Edmund resigned as a trustee of the charity in July 2012, having been its national secretary and treasurer until the end of the financial year ending 31 March 2009. The charity has filed its accounts and annual return substantially late for each of the past five years – on one occasion nearly three years late – and even its least tardy filing was 11 months late.

The Charity Commission said in a statement that an operational compliance case into the charity on issues including governance, accounting and reporting remained open.

The regulator said it independently provided authorisation for the charity trustees to carry out legal proceedings in the civil courts to recover the charity's funds on the basis that they had been misappropriated. These proceedings are continuing.

Michelle Russell, the commission's head of investigations and enforcement, said: "This case serves as a timely reminder for those who are involved in charities to be alert to situations like these, and for trustees and managers to ensure strong financial controls and monitoring procedures are put in place.

"We urge charities to take away lessons from this case and to report their suspicions of fraud immediately to the police and the Charity Commission."

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