A man was convicted yesterday of defrauding Age Concern South Tyneside of £700,000 while he was the charity's chief executive.
John Briers was found guilty yesterday at Newcastle Crown Court and will be sentenced on 24 May. The Charity Commission has said it will be engaging with the charity to establish whether regulatory action needs to be taken.
Briers diverted more than £700,000 of the charity’s money to himself across eight years, between 2007 and 2015, while he held the role of the charity’s chief executive.
He was only caught when a financial manager noticed a supporting document for one of the payments appeared to be fraudulent. Briers was suspended and an investigation was launched, the Newcastle Chronicle reported.
The judge said he wanted to get further information from the charity about the impact of the offending before sentencing Briers.
Judge Gittins said to Briers: “You have been convicted by the jury on clear and compelling evidence of a significant fraud on a charity that you were employed to protect the financial interests of. The sentence in due course will be a significant custodial sentence.
“I will determine the length of that in light of everything that’s put before me. In those circumstances you will be remanded in custody.”
The court heard the money was taken from the two limbs of the organisation - the charity, which he was chief executive of, and the trading company, which he was secretary of. He paid 60 cheques into his own bank account and awarded himself 11 unauthorised bonuses and 19 additional pension contributions while heading up the charity.
A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: “We are aware that the former chief executive of Age Concern South Tyneside was convicted yesterday of three counts of fraud against the charity.
“Any fraud committed against charities is damaging and affects a charity’s ability to help those it is set up to help. Furthermore when fraud is carried out by someone within the charity, it is a serious breach of trust and can have an even more devastating impact on the charity, its reputation, and morale amongst staff and volunteers.”
Commission establishing need for regulatory action
The spokeswoman added that today’s conviction is an “unfortunate reminder that charities need to stay alert to the risk of fraud, from inside and outside the charity, by keeping an eye out for any suspicious behaviour, strengthening internal financial controls, and avoiding placing excessive trust in individuals”.
She said the Commission was notified of the incident when the charity submitted a serious incident report in 2015 and that it has continued to keep the regulator updated with developments.
As a result of the conviction Briers has been disqualified from serving as a charity trustee, and the Commission said it will be engaging with the charity to establish whether regulatory action needs to be taken.
Age Concern South Tyneside closed in 2016 and transferred its services to Age Concern Tyneside South, which was formed as a new charity.
A spokesperson from Age Concern Tyneside South said: “ACTS was set up in August 2016 as a new, independent charity supporting older people in the area.
“The Charity offers a range of services and if older people and their friends and family in the local area want to find out what may be available to them, they can contact ACTS on 0191 4566903.”