The founder and chair of a charity for children with special needs has been jailed for 18 months after stealing at least £91,000 from the charity.
Jeanette Rose Stylianou, 57, from Durham, admitted stealing the money from the Children and Parents Advisory Group, which she founded in 1991. She spent the money on flatscreen TVs, home improvements and restaurant bills, police said.
Last Friday, Stylianou was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to fraud at Wood Green Crown Court in north London. She has also been ordered to pay £10,000 in compensation within the next six weeks.
She founded the north London-based charity, which offered weekend, summer and after school clubs run by volunteer parents for children with learning difficulties, in 1991.
Police found that more than £91,000 had been paid into Stylianou's personal account, directly from the now defunct charity, and they believed further money could have been taken from a cash float, meaning the total stolen could be as much as £137,000.
The police carried out a three-year financial investigation, which found that between 2007 and 2010 Stylianou had forged a co-signatory's signature on charity cheques before paying them into her personal account or cashing them.
Detective constable Keith Kimberley, the investigating officer on the case, said: "Stylianou held a position of trust and responsibility within the charity, set up to provide much-needed respite and relief for both families and children dealing with disabilities. She broke that trust when she used the charity's money to fund her personal lifestyle."
The charity, which received most of its funding from Enfield Council, was removed from the Charity Commission’s register on 13 September 2013.
The fraud was uncovered in March 2012 when one of the co-signatories noticed discrepancies in the charity’s accounts while preparing the end-of-year accounts for 2010/11, a police statement said.
Stylianou had submitted several carrier bags of loose receipts from the charity’s account. Hidden among the receipts were torn-up cheques with the co-signatory's forged signature, said police.
Further investigation uncovered receipts for three plasma televisions, which police believed were for Stylianou's personal use, an alarm system at her home and a birthday meal at a London restaurant,as well as several blank cheque stubs in the charity’s chequebook.
In July 2012, Stylianou was asked by trustees to resign as chair, a post she had held for 15 years, and the charity reported its suspicions to the police.
A Charity Commission spokesman said: "We welcome this sentence, which demonstrates that the courts take a very dim view of people who steal from charities.
"We aided the police investigation into Ms Stylianou by providing a witness statement in March this year.
"The charity Children And Parents Advisory Group has come off the register because it has ceased to exist."