Finance officer stole from Hartlepool charity after blowing £150k in online gambling

Teesside Crown Court
Teesside Crown Court

A TRUSTED finance officer secretly stole thousands from the charity she worked for after blowing a staggering £150,000 in online gambling.

Deirdre Gilman, who worked for the Hospital of God at Greatham, which provides care and housing in the area, became addicted to internet slot machines, leading her to commit what the judge called a “gross breach of trust”.

In just a matter of months she racked up in £100,000 debt and borrowed a whopping £50,000 from family and friends which she blew on the habit.

In February last year, she started stealing money from the Hospital of God by receiving rent money, but failing to record the payments.

Or she gave residents bogus receipts and entered false computer records in a bid to cover her tracks.

She quit work because she felt guilty about what she was doing and was arrested when discrepancies in the charity’s finances were quickly discovered.

But Gilman, 40, was spared immediate jail at Teesside Crown Court yesterday because the judge said it was in the public interest for her to beat her addiction.

In total, she stole £18,788 from the Hospital of God, which was founded more than 700 years ago, between February and August last year.

Jenny Haigh, prosecuting, said: “The method which it appears she used to take the money was she would take residents’ rent and failed to record them and on some occasions she used an unauthorised receipt book.

“She provided receipts to those who paid cash and who believed they were paying their rent properly but they were getting a receipt that wasn’t legitimate.

“Then Miss Gilman covered it up by making false entries on the computer records.”

She quickly confessed her crime after police arrested her.

Miss Haigh added: “She had a gambling addiction and was in debt to about £100,000 from online gambling.

“She had already been bailed out by members of her family for substantial sums of money and had got herself in a real financial mess.”

Miss Haigh said her colleagues at the Hospital of God were devastated at the breach of trust and had a big impact on staff morale.

The charity stressed it bore the loss and residents’ did not lose out and said they are determined to try to recover the stolen money.

Nigel Soppitt, mitigating, said she quit her job after being racked with guilt when she went out for a night with her workmates.

He said: “She squandered this money on online gambling. Frankly, it beggars belief that she accrued debts or spent £150,000 gambling on slot machines online.

“She was in a desperate situation and as a consequence behave in the way she did.”

But Gilman, now of Manor Park, Bristol, sought help for her addiction on her own and is staying at a rehabilitation centre.

She was given 15 months’ prison suspended for two years.

Judge Simon Bourne Arton said: “Gambling was your problem and it led you to ruin.

“They trusted you, they respected you and you paid them back, for whatever reason, by stealing over a number of months to a significant extent.

“Breach of trust by stealing from an employer is one thing, but stealing from a charity is even worse so this is a gross breach of trust.”

But suspending the sentence he added: “It is in the interests of the public that you are cured.”

David Granath, director of the Hospital of God, said: “The entire loss has been borne by the Hospital of God.

“There has been no loss suffered by any of the Hospital of God’s residents, service users or tenants.

“The Hospital of God will seek full recovery of these charitable funds from the perpetrator of this theft.”