Defunct charity reported to Northern Ireland Police after £51k goes missing

A report by the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland paints a picture of false information and a 'legacy' from a man who was still alive at Growth for Adolescents & Providing Support

A defunct charity in Northern Ireland has been reported to the police after £51,359 of funds it received could not be traced.

Growth for Adolescents & Providing Support, which was set up to provide sports activities and support for young people in Lurgan, closed in January amid claims of fraud, financial mismanagement and misconduct.

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland began investigating last year after a member of the public raised concerns about misappropriation of funds and inappropriate private benefits to trustees.

In a report released today – the first statutory inquiry published by the CCNI for two years – the regulator says trustees failed to reconcile income and spending for the charity.

The report says letters provided to support large donations of up to £10,000 turned out to be facsimiles of each other.

"Minutes of meetings were scant in detail with errors duplicated from one meeting to the next," it says. "The commission considered that the documents may have been fabricated retrospectively and/or were fraudulent.

"At least £51,359 of cash noted as received by the charity cannot be traced through the charity’s accounts. This loss to the charity has been reported to the police."

The report says that the chair, Damien Harte, presented false information to the charity Making a Change MAC (NI) to secure £4,500 for his own remuneration as a charity employee and withheld this information from the minutes of charity meetings and from his two fellow trustees.

The minutes of one meeting in 2016 recorded a legacy of £10,000 from the former trustee James Creaney, the late father of another trustee, Anthony Creaney. His widow was said to have bestowed the legacy.

But it turned out that James Creaney was still alive at the time of the meeting, although he subsequently died. The alleged author of the letter had died 17 years previously.

"Mr Damien Harte was responsible for the submission of false and misleading information to the commission in the form of fabricated correspondence from a deceased third party falsely attributing £10,000 of charity funding to a former and also now deceased charity trustee, Mr James Creaney," the report says. "This action was considered by the commission to amount to misconduct."

The report says that at least £16,000 was paid to volunteers, including Anthony Creaney.

Harte was suspended and disqualified from acting as a trustee in the UK. Anthony Creaney resigned after being as suspended.

An interim manager from Deloitte, appointed by the commission, decided to close the charity.

The inquiry document says Harte claimed the report was inaccurate but did not provide details. Third Sector was unable to contact him.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland did not respond before publication of this story to a question asking if it was taking any action as a result of the inquiry.

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