Thief who blew more than £700k of charity cash is jailed

Glasgow Sheriff Court.
Glasgow Sheriff Court.

A Motherwell woman has been jailed for 40 months after pocketing more than £726,000 from trusts that were set up to help charities.

Susan McMahon (34) exploited her position as assistant manager in the trust department of 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.

However, McMahon took the cash herself, transferring funds into accounts held by her and her husband which she frittered away on luxury items and designer clothes.

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

Sheriff Alan Miller jailed her for 40 months, reduced from five years, noting the embezzlement had taken place while in a position of trust and that the firm and insurers have suffered a significant loss.

McMahon 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 the project the funds had been ‘approved’ for did not fit with the purpose of the charity and found the Margaret Murdoch Trust, who McMahon claimed had authorised it, hadn’t authorised the payment.

Subsequently it was learned cheques made out to ‘SUS’ had been changed to the name of Susan McMahon.

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

Procurator fiscal depute Pauline Henderson said: “The accused exploited her position as the only member of staff within the trust’s department and the trust placed in her by her employers.”

The court heard no money has been repaid.

Defence counsel Tony Graham told the court that there is nothing which points to large sums of money or assets.

He said: “This accused, despite an embezzlement in excess of £700,000 has nothing to show for her crime.

“The money taken has been spent on campaigns of frivolous shopping, often via the anonymity of the interweb (correct).

“The proceeds of which she would often give to charity.”

The court was told she did this to mask her spending from her husband, including designer clothes, accessories and expensive cosmetics.

He added that by not asking for bail after pleading guilty she acknowledged that she was going to be jailed for her crime.