Charity worker stole £17,000 through bogus cheques and invoices

Teesside Magistrates' Court.
Teesside Magistrates' Court.

A 49-year-old woman is facing a prison sentence after she admitted stealing more than £17,000 from the charity where she worked.

Joanne Fairless was employed as a manager by Hart Gables, a charity which provides services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from its offices in Hartlepool, Stockton, and Middlesbrough.

Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard Fairless raised false invoices and pocketed the cash by diverting payments to herself and her nephew.

Magistrates were told 23 cheques were raised for a total of £13,273 which was paid into her account. Invoices were also raised for £3,950 which was paid into a family members’ account.

Lynn Dalton, prosecuting, told the court there was a high degree of breach of trust and the sentence had a guideline of between one and three years prison.

She said: “Police were called in July of last year after discrepancies were noticed in the accounts of the charity.

“An investigation found this defendant had raised invoices for work not done to a value of £3,950.

“Payments were made to an account held by her nephew.

“It was also found Fairless had raised 23 cheques to a value of £13,273, which were paid directly to her account.”

Ms Dalton told the bench sentencing guidelines indicated a sentence longer than can be imposed by magistrates.

“There was a high degree of breach of trust,” said Ms Dalton.

“We say the guidelines indicate a starting point of two years in custody, with a range of one to three years.

“With that in mind, we submit the case should be sent to the crown court to be dealt with.”

Fairless, of Lamberd Road, Hartlepool, admitted theft between March, 2016, and May of last year.

Neil Taylor, defending, said he agreed where the case fell in the guidelines.

“Ms Fairless has pleaded guilty,” added Mr Taylor.

“She is entitled to a discount off her sentence.

“It’s a matter of whether the bench feels the discount could bring the sentence just down to a level which means the case could stay in this court.”

The magistrates declined jurisdiction and sent the case to Teesside Crown Court to be sentenced on a date to be fixed.

Fairless was released on unconditional bail.

Hart Gables is a specialised charity that aims to provide support to all those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender.

The service is run by a team who dedicate their time to ensuring that the local LGBT community has access to a friendly and professional network.