The treasurer of a rescue service has been handed a two-year prison sentence after selling the charity’s lifeboat on eBay, and for selling the charity’s property to Cash Converters, forcing the charity to close.
Hull Crown Court heard on Friday how Roxanna Bridgland, 56, stole £24,500 from inshore rescue charity Cleethorpes Rescue Service over five years up until 2012. She had sold the charity’s £13,000 lifeboat for £6,000 on eBay, and had also claimed £6,500 in gift aid.
She pleaded guilty to five charges of fraud and three of false accounting and was handed a two-year prison sentence. The Charity Commission said it is assessing whether any further regulatory action needs to be taken.
The Telegraph has reported how Bridgland left the charity in crippling debt after “after engineering the resignation of its chairman and selling stolen property for her own gain”.
The charity, which was set up in 1969 following the deaths of three children when they were cut off by a sea mist on the beach at Cleethorpes, East Lincolnshire, was left with unpaid gas and electricity bills, and debt collectors.
The charity, which is 1,509 days overdue in filing its accounts with the commission, offered courses in water safety, training, visits to schools and worked alongside the RNLI and Coastguard service assisting with volunteers during the summer in all aspects of water safety. The charity has reportedly closed.
Prosecutor Geraldine Kelly told the court that Bridgland engineered the resignation of the former chairman and treasurer Peter Mason. After taking over the role as treasurer, she began stealing money and selling off its equipment.
The court heard that she made 53 visits to Cash Converters to sell off property owned by the charity, including its mobile radios.
Andrew Bailey, defending, told the court: “Her dishonesty is timed with her husband's deterioration in health from 2000. She was spending more time with him and you will see she is his registered carer.”
In Charity Finance
A Charity Commission spokesman said: “We are aware of the conviction of an individual for a fraud carried out against the charity and provided information to the police as part of their investigation.
"We have also contacted the charity to ensure that any funds recovered as a result of the prosecution are dealt with appropriately. We are currently assessing what, if any further regulatory action is required.”
The charity has been unable to be contacted for comment.