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A secretary for a cat charity stole nearly 10,000 after going into debt.
Debra Sherwood, who worked for Coventry Cats Protection, was spending money on a Tenerife vacation and home improvement despite her financial situation, Birmingham Live reports.
Sherwood, 61, of Hermitage Road, Stoke, Coventry, has now been convicted of “deceiving” by the charity she worked for.
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Sherwood, who previously admitted theft, started working for Coventry Cats Protection in 2018, which looked after cat welfare and housing.
She was responsible for collecting fees and banking funds donated by members of the public, usually between £ 60 and £ 100 per person.
Simon Rippon, prosecutor at Birmingham Crown Court, said the theft came to light after discrepancies were found regarding the amounts paid for the adoption of cats.
Sherwood later admitted what she’d done, saying she had financial problems, struggled with mortgage payments, and was in poor health.
Wendy Harris, branch coordinator, said in a statement that the charity was struggling over the cancellation of events during the pandemic.
She said she was concerned about the reputational risk and had led to suspicions among others in the organization.
Ms. Harris said it had affected her own mental health as well, and she believed the defendant was a friend.
Speaking of the verdict, Judge Avik Mukherjee said, “You admitted that you stole close to £ 10,000 from your employer.
“It’s really hard to imagine anything more mundane than what you’ve done.
“That was not an isolated incident. It was theft over a long period of time and a gross breach of trust.
“You stole from a charity. It was almost inevitable that the paper chain showed that you alone stole the money.
“You say you owe a lot of money, but I realize that you had a vacation in Tenerife and renovated your property.
“The effect on the charity and your ex-girlfriend, Wendy Harris, has been devastating.”
Lee Masters defended himself, saying that Sherwood showed up at the chairman’s house four days after a charity meeting with a tote bag full of bills she was keeping and that she made full and open confessions to the police.
He said she worked all her life but lost her job but did not reveal her financial troubles to others in her family.
“They belong to a generation that keeps troubles to themselves. They kept them in bottles,” he said.
Mr Masters said the offense was not willful, but rather resulted from special circumstances.
“She not only abandoned her family, but also those she worked with,” he said. “It was one thing that was close to her heart.”
She was sentenced to 14 months suspended sentence for two years.
She was also asked to pay £ 9,245 in compensation to the charity.
Judge Avik Mukherjee said he had decided not to send Sherwood to jail immediately because of the devastating effects on her health.
Dominic Sullivan, Director of Legal Services, Cats Protection, said, “Like all charities, we rely on the good nature and honesty of our many remarkable volunteers.
“Our donors trust us to maximize the funds available to us to achieve the best results for cats.
“Unfortunately, our routine checks and subsequent investigations in late 2019 revealed that the volunteer secretary at our Coventry office had not reported any significant amounts of adoption fees and donations from fundraisers.
“This act of fraud hit the core of everything that is central to the work of Cats Protection.
“We are grateful to the police and the Crown Prosecutor’s Office for their support in this matter and we took the opportunity to further strengthen our internal controls to ensure that this can no longer happen in the future.
“This was an extremely difficult case for the volunteers at our Coventry office. Trusting relationships are at the heart of our branch network and the actions of the volunteer secretary have abused that trust and generosity of our donors.
“We support the remaining volunteers at the facility, whose vital work with Coventry cats and the local communities has continued despite this very troubling experience.”
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