A mental health charity boss stole £35,000 from the organisation she ran in a “bizarre” scam was today spared 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 trusted boss 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 would 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 she was challenged brazen 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.
Fox had faced a jail term when she appeared for sentencing today.
But instead a sheriff ordered to carry out unpaid work, stay at home for 12 hours on an electronic tag and pay back the stolen cash.
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.
“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 10 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, 51, of Beeches, Ladybank, Fife, 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.
Sheriff Alastair Carmichael imposed a community payback order with two years supervision and 160 hours of unpaid work to be completed within nine months.
He also imposed a restriction of liberty order for four months confining Fox to her home address from 7pm til 7am every day on an electronic tag.
Finally, he ordered her to pay £18,236 compensation and fixed a confiscation hearing in January.