Finance manager jailed for stealing £479,000

Former employee of young people's charity Rathbone admits to 25 counts of fraud

The finance manager of a young people's charity has been jailed for three years after stealing nearly £500,000 from the organisation over 10 years.

Lesley Pickens stole £479,000 from Rathbone, a Manchester-based organisation that helps young people into work, Manchester Crown Court heard this month. Pickens pleaded guilty to 25 counts of fraud and asked for a further 112 offences to be taken into consideration. She was sentenced to three years and four months in prison.

Pickens, who joined the firm in 1987, made 132 transfers from the charity's account into her personal account between March 1998 and April 2008. Staff became suspicious in June 2007 when a number of transactions could not be accounted for. Police were called in after 19 transactions to Pickens' account, averaging £5,000 each, were discovered from November 2006. She was arrested in July 2008.

Richard Williams, chief executive of Rathbone, said the charity was pleased the issue had been resolved and that its insurance arrangements meant its services had not been affected.

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said the regulator was aware of the proceedings and the potential impact on the charity. "We are in contact with both the charity and Greater Manchester Police about the case and are available for advice and guidance to the charity as required," she said.

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