A fraudster who stole tens of thousands of pounds from a charity run pre-school near Sittingbourne has been ordered to pay back more than £30,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Kerry Goldsmith appeared before Maidstone Court on Thursday 8 April 2021 and was told she will have to pay compensation totalling £33,121 to the early years setting, based in Bapchild.

Goldsmith, aged 50, abused her position as treasurer at the school to carry out a series of thefts spanning a period of eight years.

Suspicions were initially raised after she had resigned from the voluntary role in June 2018; when an invoice for an entertainer was inspected and it was discovered a party had not taken place. An internal audit revealed further discrepancies and the matter was reported to police.

An investigation was carried out by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate which examined paperwork and documents including hundreds of invoices and receipts for expense claims. This identified further examples of invoice fraud. Payments were found to have been made from the school for bogus training courses, as well as computer upgrades which had not materialised. Money had also been spent on high value gift cards for staff, who did not receive the described amount.

The full extent of Goldsmith’s offending became clear when the charity’s bank statements were checked. As treasurer she had been permitted to act as a signatory for any cheques issued. It was discovered that, between 2011 and 2018, almost 100 cheques had been written out to herself and a weight loss company she was affiliated with.

Goldsmith, from Sheerness, pleaded guilty to 26 separate counts, including fraud, false accounting and furnishing false information. On 23 February 2021, Maidstone Crown Court imposed a suspended prison sentence of two years, and a six month curfew order.

Financial investigators from Kent Police then used legislation under the Proceeds of Crime Act to claw back money Goldsmith had illegally obtained. A confiscation hearing was held at Maidstone Crown Court and not contested by Goldsmith. The money has to be paid within three months and failure to do so will result in a default prison sentence of nine months.

‘Goldsmith was entrusted to look after the financial interests of the school, but instead repeatedly syphoned money by forging invoices, letters and other documents. She has profited by inventing and exaggerating costs and expenses of all kinds, effectively taking money which the school could no doubt ill afford to lose.

‘This ruling has shown once again how important the Proceeds of Crime Act is, in ensuring that crime doesn’t pay. On this occasion the legislation will also ensure that the money can now be used to benefit the children as it was originally intended.’

Detective Inspector Annie Clayton of the Economic Crime Unit

By Ed

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