A couple from Lincoln have been sentenced each to three years in prison after stealing more than £200,000 from vulnerable people via a charity they were running.
Peter Childs (61) and Alison Childs (48) exploited vulnerable members of the Lincoln and District Mencap charity (LDM) based on Tentercroft Street over a number of years through their handling of funds.
The charity was affiliated to Royal Mencap, but operated independently with help from charitable donations and a grant from Lincolnshire County Council.
The couple were on trial at Lincoln Crown Court over the past six weeks.
The charity works with residents with varying degrees of learning difficulties and helps them to live independently in the community.
Some of these people paid regular Utility and Maintenance Payments (UMP) to the charity so they could pay bills on their behalf.
However, while this money would legitimately go towards bills, the amount required by the Childs couple was higher, meaning they could keep surplus for themselves.
For example, two brothers were members who lived together in a small flat and paid over £30,000 cash in UMP to LDM between 2006 and 2011 for the payment of their water, gas, electricity and telephone bills.
In 2007, Alison Childs instructed staff at LDM to collect savings from members to assist them in their financial management. The pair, Richard and Roger Fogg, handed over about £13,000 in savings.
The members gave this money in good faith that it would be secured for their future needs, however it was kept and spent by the Childs couple.
Then, in September 2007 the couple employed Lithuanian woman Inga Stasytyte as their housekeeper.
However, instead of paying her wage themselves, the pair claimed she was an employee at LDM and she was paid her salary from the charity.
Additionally, Peter Childs fathered a child with Stasytyte, but claimed she was on LDM maternity leave in order to receive maternity pay. The charity also ended up paying around £9,000 in rent to Stasytyte.
In 2010, Peter Childs suffered a stroke and Alison became his carer, meaning she spent less time at the LDM offices.
Despite this, she still ordered the collection of the UMP payments and attended the office to collect the cash.
However, it was at this point staff, handling more tasks now the Childs were out of office more, began to notice the UMP payments were excessive in comparison with the bills.
Accommodation officer John Webb then investigated the payments by members and reported the fraud to the police.
A police financial investigation headed by John Hopkinson and DC Helen McGill found on January 1, 2006, the four accounts belonging to LDM had a total credit of around £75,000, but in November 1, 2011, the accounts were in debt to around £1,800 despite the £103,000 grant from council.
The majority of this loss went from LDM to the Childs’ personal accounts to fund their lifestyle.
When questioned about the dishonesty offences both denied the charges, with Peter Childs stating he was entitled to the money as honorariums for his various roles within the charity and Alison Childs denying any involvement in LDM finances.
The trial contained 29 counts of offences of theft, fraud by false representation and fraud by abuse of position.
Prior to the trial, Peter Childs pleaded guilty to one count of false accounting in relation to the payments made to Inga Stasytyte and abuse of his position by dishonestly using the savings belonging to five of the members for his own purposes.
The jury found the couple guilty of:
- 13 counts relating to theft of UMP from 13 of the members of LDM between January 2006 until November 2011.
- 12 counts relating to the defrauding by abuse of position of the Cold Weather Payments and the DLA for 12 of the members of LDM.
- One count against Alison Childs in relation to the savings of five members that Peter Childs had already pleaded guilty to.
- One count of theft of savings from one other member for which both were also found guilty.
At the end of the trial, Judge Sean Morris, Recorder of Lincoln, made special mention of Sarah Circk and John Webb and awarded them the High Sheriff Award and £400 each for their diligence in exposing the Childs’ offending.
DC Helen McGill, of Lincoln CID, said: “I am very pleased with the sentences, I think they accurately reflect the seriousness of the offences.
“What Peter and Alison Childs did was systematically exploit vulnerable people who trusted them and gave them in good faith money that they thought would be secure for their future needs.
“It has not only had a terrible effect on the victims, some of whom handed over thousands of pounds, but could also have a wider impact on the trust people have in charities.
“We hope that the seriousness of the sentences imposed today tells people that Lincolnshire Police works hard to bring to justice anyone committing these types of offences, and sends a very strong and clear message to any criminals committing similar offences.”