Chief executive who used charity money to restore his own art collection is jailed

Philip Bujak, 58, of Haywards Heath, was found guilty of defrauding the charity he headed, Montessori St Nicholas, of more than £180,000

Philip Bujak
Philip Bujak

The former chief executive of the education charity Montessori St Nicholas has been sentenced to six years in prison for defrauding the charity of more than £180,000, some of which was used to restore his art collection.

Philip Bujak, 58, of Haywards Heath, West Sussex, was convicted on Friday of defrauding the charity over a seven-year period until an internal investigation carried out by the charity in 2014 resulted in his dismissal.

He was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and three counts of fraud by false representation in a first trial held in March and April.

Bujak, who joined the charity in 2003, had used a company credit card to pay for personal stays in hotels and even for a facial, a statement from City of London Police said.

The police statement also said that Bujak submitted three invoices worth a total of £4,105 in 2012 and 2013 that purported to be for restoring the charity’s artwork.

But Bujak was instead restoring his personal art collection, which included several watercolour paintings of warships, the police statement said.

An investigation of the invoices approved by Bujak also found that the charity had been overcharged by £60,000 for printing supplies. The police statement said that Bujak had been taking a cut of the money paid to printers and used the charity’s money to pay for personal printing.

In a second trial, Bujak was found to have used a company called Foris Fortuna Ltd to sell a building owned by the charity, which earned the company more than £350,000 on commission. Bujak agreed to a secret £100,000 payment as part of the deal, the police statement said.

But the £350,000 payment included more than £50,000 in VAT, the police statement said, which was not paid to HM Revenue & Customs.

Adrian Dugdale, 46, of Notting Hill, was convicted for his role in the VAT fraud. He received an 18-month suspended sentence and was ordered to repay £52,000 in VAT, the police said.

The second trial saw Philip Bujak convicted of fraud by abuse of position.

Jacqui Owen, the police staff investigator at City of London Police, who led the case, said: "Philip Bujak abused his position of trust to steal thousands of pounds for his own personal use.

"As the chief executive of the charity he was able to control everything and went to considerable lengths to conceal these frauds. He worked together with his friends to pull the wool over the eyes of the charity.

"The City of London Police worked tirelessly with the charity to investigate this case and make sure that Philip Bujak was brought to justice and made to realise the sheer immorality of his crimes."

A spokesman for Montessori St Nicholas said: "We welcome the verdict and are grateful to the authorities, with which we have worked closely, for their handling of this matter. This has been a challenging time for Montessori St Nicholas, having been let down by someone in a position of trust.

"While we moved quickly and appropriately, lessons have been learned and our internal processes adapted accordingly. As an organisation, we remain focused on continuing to provide exceptional educational services."

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