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Charity boss scammed £35,000 from mental health group

The 51-year-old from Fife was a co-signatory on the charity's bank account.

Court: Elaine Fox admitted the crime.
Court: Elaine Fox admitted the crime.

A mental health charity boss who stole £35,000 from the organisation she ran in a "bizarre" scam is facing jail.

Elaine Fox was manager of the East Neuk Recovery Group Initiative known as ENeRGI for more than 15 years, providing support services to people with mental health and substance misuse problems.

The 51-year-old from Fife was a co-signatory on the charity's bank account and was in charge of writing cheques to cover the payroll for their 10 staff.

The charity, funded by the Scottish Government, Fife Council and donations, was assisted by Fife Voluntary Action to process its payroll.

But Fox had a "bizarre process" to pay money into the charity's bank account to cover wages.

ENeRGI's finance officer noticed money missing from the charity's accounts, but when challenged Fox claimed she was using her own money to cover the wages of staff.

She later admitted she was "taking advances on her wages" and owed the charity £35,000.

Fiscal depute Sue Ruta told Dundee Sheriff Court that Fox pleaded with the staff member not to inform the charity's board and that she was going to take a £25,000 loan out to repay the bulk of the cash.

Miss Ruta said: "This had gone on for a number of years and the accused dismissed any attempts to bring it up.

"Eventually at a meeting she admitted taking advances and intended to pay the money back.

"Numerous fraudulent payments were identified from January 1 2013 until August 7 2017.
Fiscal depute Sue Ruta

"She said she was due £35,000 and wanted the chequebook taken from her to stop her writing cheques.

"The treasurer was asked and he said she would bring blank cheques round for him to sign up to ten at a time.

"Numerous fraudulent payments were identified from January 1 2013 until August 7 2017.

"The stubs on the chequebook said it was for training, travel, decoration and equipment with the accused then altering cheques to have them paid to herself.

"The accused had also failed to pay Fife Council the full amount of rent the were due and there was £12,000 in arrears.

"The total financial loss to ENeRGI was £34,136.

"She was interviewed by police on March 4 this year and accepted responsibility for the offence."

Fox, of Beeches, Ladybank pleaded guilty on indictment to embezzling £34,136 from ENeRGI, East Street, St Monans, between January 1 2013 and July 8 2017.

Defence solicitor Laura McGillvery said Fox had paid back £15,900 to the charity since police intervened in the case.

She added: "This is a case where a criminal justice social work report will be required."

Sheriff Alastair Carmichael deferred sentence until next month for social work background reports and released Fox on bail meantime.

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