Scot who stole from charities to buy clothes jailed

A MOTHER-of-three pocketed more than £726,000 from trusts that were set up to help charities before spending the cash on designer goods – then giving them away to charity.

The woman pled guilty to embezzling the money at Glasgow Sheriff Court. Picture: Greg Macvean

Susan McMahon, 34, was jailed for 40 months after she exploited her position as assistant manager in the trust department of chartered accountants Grant Thornton UK.

She falsified documents so her superiors would authorise cheques, believing the trustees had agreed the money would go to various beneficiaries including the Save the Children charity.

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The mother also took £4,000 from a trust set up for three children.

But instead of going where the trustees planned, she pocketed the cash herself, transferring funds into accounts held by her and her husband. She frittered the money away on luxury items and designer clothes, before giving the items away to charity shops to hide her spending from her family.

McMahon, from Motherwell, pled guilty at Glasgow Sheriff Court yesterday to embezzling £726,765 between 2006 and 2013.

Sheriff Alan Miller jailed her for more than three years.

He noted that the embezzlement had taken place while in a position of trust and that the firm and insurers had suffered a significant loss.

She was snared in April 2013 when one of the partners in the firm authorised a cheque for £15,000 to be paid to the Sports University Scotland (SUS), an Aberdeen charity.

But he became suspicious because he thought a project that the funds had been approved for did not fit with the purpose of the charity.

He carried out checks on the Margaret Murdoch trust that Mrs McMahon claimed had authorised the payment and discovered no such payment had been approved.

Procurator fiscal depute Pauline Henderson said: “The trustees had not approved a £15,000 payment to SUS. The minutes he had been presented with by the accused suggesting that the trustees had authorised a payment had been doctored and were quite different to the minutes held on the companies’ database.

“And further, the payee on the cheques made out to SUS had been changed to the name of Susan McMahon.”

The court was told that of the 12 to 15 trusts administered by McMahon, six had had funds belonging to them fraudulently removed and paid out to her or her husband’s accounts.

The trusts that lost money were included the Margaret Murdoch Charitable Trust and the Morrison Foundation.

The Margaret Murdoch trust has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to a number of charities including Alzheimer’s Research UK and Scottish Huntington’s Association.