A man who defrauded the public of over £200,000 in the name of three small charities has been jailed for 45 months by Liverpool Crown Court.
54-year-old businessman Harris Polak had been contracted by Cancer Relief UK, Clatterbridge Cancer Research (which recently merged with North West Cancer Research), and Cerebral Palsy Care for Children, to undertake supermarket collections between 2007 and 2011. But Polak, having employed a team of fundraisers to do the work on his behalf, failed to declare amounts collected to the charities and kept over £213,000 of the funds raised for himself.
Detective Sergeant Dave Gates said: "Merseyside Police Economic Crime Team carried out a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the fraud allegations which meant that Harris Polak was left with no other option but to plead guilty. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the officers and staff involved in the investigation for their professionalism throughout the inquiry.
"Mr Polak was a well known and respected member of his local community. He hasn't just let himself and his family down, he has let down all those people who trusted him to raise funds for deserving charities."
Polak, who was a prominent member of Liverpool's Childwall Synagogue was arrested with his wife Reva Polak who was accused of aiding and abetting the offences but was let off after Polak pleaded guilty.
The Charity Commission provided evidence and a witness statement to Merseyside Police ahead of the prosecution. The regulator had become aware of Polak's involvement with a number of charities that it had received complaints about, finding Polak to be the common link.
Michelle Russell, head of investigations and enforcement at the Commission commented on the sentencing yesterday:
“Today’s sentence demonstrates that criminals who steal from charities will be brought to justice. Any form of fraud is criminal, but it is a low blow to steal from charities by tricking members of the public into thinking they are giving to worthy causes such as care for children and people with cancer.
“The Commission welcomes the court’s decision to impose a custodial sentence of 45 months. It sends a strong signal to those thinking of abusing charities in this way that they will not get away with it," she said
Alistair McLean, chief executive of the Fundraising Standards Board welcomed the sentence as a move that would help increase public trust in charities:
"In stealing funds intended for charitable causes, this man has not only deceived generous supporters and robbed charities, but jeapordised public trust in charitable giving. It is critical that such criminals are prosecuted and we congratulate the police for bringing this man to justice," he said.
The Commission advised charity trustees to collect charity materials such as identity badges, collection tines or buckets from volunteers promptly; ensure volunteers are aware they need a license to conduct street or door-to-door collections and to ensure returned tins are sealed and counted by at least two unrelated individuals.