A TREASURER of a Christian charity has been jailed for five years after he was found guilty of stealing more than £500,000 from two charities.
Steven Methuen, an accountant from Stourbridge, controlled the finances of Amblecote Christian Centre and made false gift aid claims totalling £195,000. He also siphoned off an additional £205,000 from the charity and £117,000 from a related charity, Christian International Relief Mission, which works with children's orphanages in the Philippines.
An investigation carried out jointly by HM Revenue & Customs and West Midlands Police found that the money had been transferred to Methuen's personal bank account.
Methuen told investigators in an interview that the discrepancies were down to software errors, but forensic computer analysis conducted by HMRC and West Midlands Police proved the claim to be completely untrue.
In total, £517,000 had been transferred to his personal account and used to pay off personal credit cards.
Graham Ranson, assistant director of HMRC's criminal taxes unit, said: "Methuen was ruthless in his campaign to steal these substantial funds. He gained the trust of the organisations over a number of years and held a respected position. This did not satisfy him or provide any sense of loyalty.
"The gift aid scheme is designed to benefit charities, but Methuen continued to falsify business records for his own financial benefit. The prison sentence handed out by the court sends out a clear message that crime does not pay and the community will be horrified to learn he exploited and stole from these charities and the taxpayer, in a sustained and methodical way, over a number of years."
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