Woman jailed for defrauding £145,000 from autism charity to spend on 14 holidays

A former manager at an autism charity has been jailed after stealing more than £145,000 from the organisation that she spent on holidays, days out and concert trips.

Dawn Franklin, 47 and from Retford, Nottinghamshire, was this month sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court to three years and four months in prison for defrauding Autism East Midlands out of the funds between 2011 and 2018.

Nottinghamshire Police said Franklin used the charity’s cards to pay for things including 14 holidays for friends and family, electrical items, days out and concert tickets.

She had been in charge of organising trips on behalf of the charity to places including the seaside and theme parks, plus residential trips within the UK and abroad, as part of her role as regional play and leisure coordinator.

Police said Franklin was found to have withdrawn money using the organisation’s cards and used this for a number of fraudulent petty cash transactions, for which she created false receipts.

She covered up her activities by creating false invoices and fabricating the number of hours delivered to local authorities, which resulted in them being overcharged.

Police said the fraud came to light in November 2018 after concerns arose about a contract Franklin was trusted with. An examination of her spending then uncovered the fraud.

She pleaded guilty to charges of fraud by abuse of position, fraud by false representation and false accounting.

Jane Howson, chief executive of Autism East Midlands, said in a statement: “Dawn Franklin worked for Autism East Midlands for nine years and six months. During that time she rose to a position of trust within the organisation and with the families that she supported.

“Unfortunately Dawn carefully and systematically defrauded the organisation over a very long period of time. This was dealt with as soon as it was discovered and reported to the police at the end of 2018.

“What is most heart-breaking is that Dawn knew the families that the money was intended to benefit and autistic children and their families are the real victims of Dawn’s crime. AEM apologises to those families that we did not detect this theft earlier.

“We immediately tightened our financial controls when this theft came to light and we are satisfied that this could not happen again in this way. We are very glad that the long journey to justice is over and are satisfied with the outcome of this case.”

Detective Constable Jason Jenkins, of Nottinghamshire Police, said it was “absolutely abhorrent” that Franklin had used her position of trust within the charity for her own gain.

“Her actions had a huge effect on the charity, colleagues and people that they worked with, and it is really positive to see that the courts have recognised this and served her with a custodial sentence, which we hope will give her the opportunity to reflect on her actions,” he said.

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