Former charity chief jailed for five years after £900k fraud

Simon Price had pleaded guilty to stealing from Birmingham Dogs Home when he was chief executive; his wife Alayna, once the charity's commercial manager, is given a two-year suspended sentence

Simon Price (left) and his wife Alayna
Simon Price (left) and his wife Alayna

The former chief executive of Birmingham Dogs Home has been jailed for five years after he and his wife stole more than £900,000 from the charity.

Simon Price, 53, of Marston Green in Solihull, was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on 22 December after he had pleaded guilty in November to 10 counts of fraud by abuse of position.

Price’s wife, Alayna, 39, who was previously the charity’s commercial manager and head of fundraising, also admitted five counts of fraud by abuse of position and at the same court hearing was given a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years.

The police investigation into the Prices began when the charity reported that £399,274 was missing from the sale of one of its properties in Digbeth, Birmingham.

According to a police statement, the investigation discovered that Simon Price had the proceeds of the sale paid into his own bank account, which he claimed was a business account used by the charity.

West Midlands Police said that Simon Price was then arrested on 10 November 2016 on a flight from Barcelona and, in a police interview, admitted to defrauding the charity of £650,000, which he spent on online gambling.

Further police enquiries found that Simon Price created fake invoices from solicitors, construction companies and marketing firms and authorised the payments to go into his own bank account.

Price was asked to leave the charity in 2016 when the fraud was discovered.

Alayna Price was found to have stolen £250,000 in legacies that had been left to the charity, the police statement said.

West Midlands Police confirmed that it had taken control of two properties owned by the couple, one of which was their family home, and both buildings would be sold to reimburse the charity.

Detective Constable Arron Cox from the economic crime unit at West Midlands Police said: "This fraud was motivated by pure greed: between them they took home handsome salaries. but still felt the need to steal from the charity.

"And of course they were taking money that had been donated by generous people in the West Midlands and beyond − money that was earmarked for animal care but instead was splashed on gambling and a lavish lifestyle."

John Wheatley, chair of Birmingham Dogs Home, said: "We remain bitterly disappointed that a position of trust was abused in such a manner, but we now look to the future under the guidance of our new chief executive and with measures in place to ensure something like this never happens again.

"Some of the funds have now been returned and we remain hopeful that more can be recovered. We will work closely with the relevant authorities to do all we can on this matter."

Tracy Howarth, head of regulatory compliance at the Charity Commission, said the sentencing "sends out a strong message that the abuse of charities for personal gain will not be tolerated".

She said the commission was working with the charity’s trustees to "ensure that there are adequate financial controls in place to protect the charity’s assets".

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