Belfast Telegraph

Man jailed for £32,000 Linfield fan club fraud

By Ashleigh McDonald

The former bookkeeper of Newtownabbey Linfield Supporters' Club who admitted transferring over £32,000 from the club's coffers into his own bank account to fund his gambling habit, was sent to prison yesterday.

Perry Clements, a 37-year-old father-of-three from Green End in Newtownabbey, pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud.

Belfast Crown Court heard he admitted transferring a relatively small amount of money over an 18-month period from October 13, 2009 to March 25, 2011, which resulted in him dishonestly obtaining a total sum of £32,642. Clements has since paid back all the money.

Handing Clements a 12-month sentence - half of which will be spent in custody with the remainder spent on licence - Judge Patricia Smyth said: "Those who are entrusted with the financial affairs of others are expected to act with honesty and integrity, and those who fail to do so should expect an immediate custodial sentence."

Crown prosecutor Peter Magill told the court that at the time of the offending, as Clements was the bookkeeper of First Newtownabbey Linfield Supporters' Club he was entitled to a wage, which he received. However, on top of his wages, he made a series of further transactions.

The offending was discovered when the club's accountants raised concerns about a significant increase in staff costs.

Mr Magill said that when the offending came to light, club officials called to Clements' home, and he "immediately admitted what he had done".

The prosecutor added: "He didn't know how much he had taken but immediately made arrangements to pay back £20,000, which is more than what he thought he had taken."

Defence barrister Denis Boyd pointed out that not only has his client paid back all the money, he also came before the court with no criminal convictions.

Mr Boyd told Judge Smyth that since leaving school at 17, Clements has been in constant employment, which has included positions as a cashier in a bank and a credit control operator.

Regarding the offending, Mr Boyd said that Clements "liked to gamble" but that "in and around 2010 it became more serious".

He continued: "In order to finance it, he initially took money from the club, very foolishly, in the hope that he would be able to pay it back. After that, it got out of control."

Mr Boyd also told the court that Clements - who has sought help for gambling and no longer partakes - was remorseful and "is not going to come back before the courts".

Passing sentence, Judge Smyth told Clements that his role as bookkeeper meant he was in a position of trust and that in the club he was treated "not just as an employee, but as a friend and member of the club".

She also spoke of the impact Clements' breach of trust had on both the club and individuals within the club.

Clements was "a person of impeccable character", the judge said and he will "never be trusted to work with people's money again".

Belfast Telegraph

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