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Treasurer jailed for £43,000 thefts
A 32-year-old treasurer who stole nearly £43,000 from a church's collection and a school's minibus fund has been jailed for two and a half years.
Carol Payne abused her position as a member of the parent-teacher association (PTA) at independent Highclare School in Birmingham to syphon off £11,552.86, which had been allocated to buy a bus for the benefit of pupils.
She also took £31,300 from Saltley Methodist Church's collections fund, which was used for the benefit of the congregation - among whom were members of her own family.
To defraud the church, she even duped her own mother-in-law into counter-signing cheques in order to pay the money into her own account.
Payne, of Shottery Close, Sutton Coldfield, used the cash - stolen mostly through numerous cheque payments - to service the private school fees of her seven-year-old daughter, who attended Highclare, and to fund the rent on her family's four-bedroom house.
Payne, who had a background as an accountancy assistant, had previously admitted theft from Highclare's PTA, as well as further offences of fraud and false accounting in relation to Saltley Methodist Church.
Passing sentence at Birmingham Crown Court today, Recorder Mark Warby QC told Payne: "There's nothing wrong with aiming high, b ut you used other people's money to fund your aspirations."
He added: "It did not take long after you were appointed treasurer at the school, you were dipping the funds being raised for the minibus of children. So it was the children and the parents who were your victims.
"I accept you took on the role of treasurer at the church with sound motivations, but then still you took £31,300.
"These are very serious matters - you were given a high degree of trust.
"You were trusted with money, which was not properly safeguarded, solely because people trusted you."
For the school theft, the judge handed Payne 12 months in jail, with a further 18 months to be served consecutively for the church fraud and 12 months concurrent for false accounting. He also ordered her to pay a victim surcharge of £100.
Liz de Oliveira, in mitigation, said her client was "extremely remorseful" and had lost everything as a result of her offending.
The barrister added: "The impact has been horrendous - albeit all of her own doing.
"Her family did support her until the church matter came to light, as many of her family attend that church. It has caused a huge split in the family.
"She's also lost her house and her child's education."
A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing is set to take place this year in a bid to recover some of the stolen cash.