Former trustee told to repay £25k he stole from community charity

A former trustee has been ordered to pay back the almost £25,000 he stole from a charity to fund a gambling habit. 

Mike Harrison, aged 76 and of Ramsgate, Kent, made 77 fraudulent transactions between 1 August 2015 and 10 February 2020, while he was a trustee of the Newington Community Association.

The charity manages the Newington Community Centre in Ramsgate, which has been used as a food storage and distribution hub during the coronavirus pandemic. Its total income up to 31 March 2020 was £28,406. 

Harrison, a former Labour Party councillor for Thanet District Council, admitted one charge of fraud by false representation at an earlier hearing in March.

At Canterbury Crown Court earlier this month, he was sentenced to 16 months in prison, suspended for 18 months.

He was also told to attend 25 rehabilitation activity requirement days, pay costs of £340 to the Crown Prosecution Service and repay £24,957 to the charity. 

The amount will be paid to the court within 12 months and then passed to the charity, while non-payment will result in enforcement action.

The charity said it became aware of the fraud in February 2020 and immediately reported it to Action Fraud, the Charity Commission and key stakeholders, as well as launching an urgent investigation and review of all procedures. 

It said it put new financial procedures in place, including a new accounting system and new personnel, and changed bank signatories.

The charity said: “For the past 16 months we have been under the cloud of theft of a considerable amount of the charity's money by someone whom we trusted. 

“This has now been dealt with at court and Mr Harrison has to pay this money back via the courts within 12 months; we look forward hopefully to receiving these well needed funds.

“A lot of hard working volunteers have kept Newington Community Centre running and with this sorry episode behind us we intend to move forward in a positive manner.”

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