A football supporters’ club treasurer stole £9,000 in cash and used the club’s credit card to steal another £13,000.
Christopher Gregory, who was treasurer of Hartlepool FC Supporters’ Club, told police he burned the cash because he didn’t like the way the club treated him, Teesside Crown Court heard.
“The money had been in the club’s safe,” said Jenny Haigh, prosecuting. “Suspicions were raised when the club treasurer noticed the card had been used for withdrawals, rather than internet purchases for which it was normally used.
“The matter was raised at a committee meeting at which the defendant was present. He was asked where the card was, and said it would be in the safe, but it could not be found.”
The court heard Gregory denied any wrongdoing at the meeting.
Ms Haigh added: “He later sent a message to the club’s facebook page admitting taking the £9,000.
“An inquiry showed some of the card withdrawals had been made at Sainsbury’s in Murray Street, Hartlepool.
“CCTV from the time of the withdrawals clearly showed the defendant making them.”
Gregory, 42, of Raby Square, Hartlepool, admitted theft and fraud between October, 2014, and February of this year.
He was of previous good character.
Andrew Teate, defending said in mitigation: “Mr Gregory owned up to what he had done when challenged, and handed himself in to the police.
“Having taken the cash and disposed of it as he says, he then hoped to replace it and used the card to fund gambling.
“This spiralled out of control, as it so often does, and he found himself in debt.
“Mr Gregory is now living with his elderly parents for whom he has some care responsibilities.”
Judge Stephen Ashurst sentenced Gregory to 15 months in prison, suspended for two years, and 120 hours of community work.
The judge told him: “Your explanation of burning the money is ludicrous, but it makes no practical difference to the appropriate sentence.
“Not so many years ago, someone stealing this amount of money would have gone straight to prison, but I am bound by the sentencing guidelines.
“Your early admissions to the club are important, because it meant the finger of suspicion was not pointed at other members, which can often happen in this type of case.
“You have also forever lost your good character, and you have lost any good reputation you may have had in Hartlepool.”
A hearing on a date to be fixed next year will determine if Gregory has any assets which can be seized as the proceeds of crime.