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CHURCH CHEATER: Former Radwell church treasurer jailed after stealing and laundering over £125,000

 Published on: 7th August 2023   |   By: News Bulletin   |   Category: Uncategorized

A former treasurer of Radwell church in Hertfordshire was jailed for 28 months on Friday, August 4, after stealing collection money and using its bank account to launder over £125,000 she had stolen from her employer.

Alison Blake, 52, was the sole signatory on the Parochial Church Council account and used it to transfer cash from Hertfordshire-based Kier Fleet Services. Blake then paid the money into her own account and used it as “retail therapy” to counter her depression and the perimenopause, St Albans crown court herd on Friday.

Prosecutor Andrea Scott-Lynch said Blake, who now lives near Newmarket, was the sole signatory on the PCC account when she took over in the account 2013. She opened an internet banking account for small church, which had only 10 parishioners.

It normally collected around £3,500 a year, but from February 2018 Blake paid in 147 fraudulent cheques from Kier, where she worked as an assistant finance manager. The amounts varied between £200 and £2000 and totalled £125,531.05. On top of that she took £24,000 from the church funds, which she has since repaid.

She transferred money to her account and spent it on shopping sites such as Not on the High Street, Etsy, QVC, Amazon and EsteeLaude, said Ms Scott-Lynch. Until she was found out Blake had resisted attempts to have a second signatory of the church account. She had lied to the other members of the PCC when persuading them to switch the account from Lloyds to the Nat West, claiming that Lloyds was charging them for the account.

When she resigned from the PCC in 2019 she made repeated excuses to the new treasurer, preventing him from gaining access to the account. He only received a statement in October 2021 after involving the banking ombudsman. Blake had caused problems when a £10,000 grant to repair the church roof was not immediately sent to the specialist contractors who carried out the work. She was on holiday in Australia at the time and managed to negotiate an instalment scheme.

Blake, now of Top Green, Denston, Newmarket appeared for sentence having pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud by abuse of position.

Defending, Natalie Turner said she was of previous good character and had made full admissions. She had told the police about the fraud on Kier before the company knew anything about it.

She said Blake had paid back the church and has offered to repay Kier.

Ms Turner said she had previously been in two abusive relationships and had turned to retail therapy as a coping mechanism. She said Blake had been going through the perimenopause and had felt under huge pressure, having experienced bullying at work.

She is now married and living in Suffolk. Blake sent letters of apology to the church, Kier and the court.

Jailing her, Recorder Lee Harris said: “There was a serious abuse of position by you over a lengthy period of time.”

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