A charity that finances a community of Anglican monks has found itself involved in its second fraud case in as many years after a councillor was sentenced for stealing almost £100,000 of charity funds.
Former Labour councillor Geoff Hammond has been given a 12-month custodial sentence for stealing £99,493 while working as the executive officer of the Fellowship of St John (UK) Trust Association between 29 May 2012 and August 2013.
Accoridng to the charity's 2011 annual report, in 2012 £3,750 was also stolen from the charity by a member of its community.
A spokesperson for the charity said of Hammond’s sentencing: “This has been a very distressing situation for all those associated with the Trust. We have ensured minimum disruption to our charitable work.”
Hammond appeared for sentencing at Southwark Crown Court yesterday afternoon. He pleaded guilty to theft from a position of trust and was given a 12-month custodial sentence. He was ordered to pay costs to the Crown Prosecution Service.
The charity said that internal financials controls identified that a substantial amount of money was unaccounted for. Mr Hammond admitted to the theft on 5 August and he was immediately dismissed for gross misconduct.
The Waltham Forest Guardian reported that Hammond, who previously represented the Higham Hill Ward of Waltham Forest, claimed he took the money because he could not meet growing interest on debt repayments for loans and credit cards.
He said he apologised unreservedly for what he had done.
The charity has recovered all of the stolen money from Hammond.
The Association is currently 71 days overdue on its 2012 accounts. Its income dropped substantially between 2010 and 2011, from £142,065 to £67,709.
This is not the first time that large sums of money have been stolen from the charity.
The organisation's 2011 accounts, the last ones to have been filed with the Charity Commission, show that the Metropolitan Police were involved when it was discovered that a member was stealing money from the charity. This led to a court hearing on 31 July 2012 which resulted in a conditional discharge.
The events were reported to the Charity Commission and a plan of action was agreed with it.
A spokeswoman from the Fellowship of St John (UK) Trust Association said she could not comment about this previous case of fraud.
The Fellowship of St John (UK) Trust Association’s principal activity is the management of resources needed to finance and run the society, which is a religious community of Anglican monks.
It makes grants to other charities and individuals with similar aims and sympathies.
A spokesperson for Waltham Forest council said: "We are aware that a former Waltham Forest councillor has been jailed in relation to his conduct as an employee at a charity.
"The offence is entirely unrelated to his role as a councillor and we can confirm that he represented the Higham Hill ward from May 2010 until he resigned from his seat on 27 November 2013.
"The Council could not deal with this matter under its Code of Conduct, as following changes in the law under the Localism Act 2011, this Code was limited to matters that fell within the ex-councillor’s official duties. He was suspended by the Labour party in August 2013 when this matter first came to light."