The treasurer of a Christian charity has been jailed after he stole more than £500,000 from two charities.
Accountant Steven Methuen was responsible for the finances of Amblecote Christian Centre in Stourbridge, West Midlands. A joint investigation by HM Revenue and Customs and West Midlands Police revealed that he had submitted false Gift Aid claims of £195,000 and had siphoned off a further £205,000 from the charity, as well as £117,000 from a related charity that provides assistance to children’s orphanages in the Philippines. The money had been transferred to Mr Methuen’s own bank account and used to pay his credit card bills.
Initially, Mr Methuen said that the discrepancies had been caused by errors in the charity’s accounting software, but forensic analysis proved this to be false. He pleaded guilty to five counts of fraudulently filing Gift Aid repayment claims and twelve counts of theft under the Theft Act 1968, and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Graham Ranson, Assistant Director Criminal Taxes Unit, HM Revenue and Customs, said, “Methuen was ruthless in his campaign to steal these substantial funds. He gained the trust of the organisations over a number of years and held a respected position. This did not satisfy him or provide any sense of loyalty.
“The Gift Aid scheme is designed to benefit charities, but Methuen continued to falsify business records for his own financial benefit. The prison sentence handed out by the courts today sends out a clear message that crime does not pay and the community will be horrified to learn he exploited and stole from these charities and the taxpayer, in a sustained and methodical way, over a number of years.”