Charity pension trustee jailed for £250k fraud

The former head of a charity for the disabled has been jailed for five years for defrauding the charity’s pension scheme out of more than £250,000

Patrick McLarry, from Bere Alston, Devon, took funds from the pension scheme of Yateley Industries for the Disabled and used it to buy homes in France and Hampshire for himself and his wife, as well as paying off a personal debt.

The Pensions Regulator (TPR), which brought the prosecution, is now seeking a confiscation order to force McLarry to hand back all the money he took.

At the time of committing the fraud, McLarry was both the chief executive and chairman of the charity and a director of VerdePlanet Ltd, the corporate trustee of the charity’s pension scheme.

The regulator was alerted by a whistleblower to unusual investments in the Yateley Industries for the Disabled pension scheme in 2013. An investigation by TPR unearthed a series of suspicious investments in the scheme accounts and an investigation was launched.

This revealed that prior to VerdePlanet being appointed as the trustee of the scheme, the corporate trustee took the unusual step of amending the scheme’s definitive deed which meant the scheme was unable to pursue McLarry for the funds which he went on to take.

Between March 2012 and February 2013 he arranged for £256,127 to be transferred from the charity pension scheme into bank accounts he controlled.

He used the money to buy a home and a small warehouse in the south of France, a house in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, and repay a debt he owed over the purchase of a pub lease in Portsmouth.

He tried to cover his tracks by forging documents, lying to TPR investigators about who owned the properties involved and then refusing to hand over vital evidence.

TPR prosecuted McLarry for failing to hand over bank statements at trial in April 2017, after which the bank statements were given to TPR.

They revealed that he had used scheme funds to purchase his house in France. The fine for that offence was paid at least in part by Yateley, not by McLarry, which TPR claimed showed the level of control he exercised over Yateley.

During his subsequent trial at Winchester Crown Court, the jury heard that the case was a sophisticated fraud undertaken over a number of years against vulnerable victims.

Judge Andrew Barnett said McLarry had acted with appalling dishonesty and breach of trust, adding he had ‘milked the pension fund of considerable funds, spent entirely for your own needs and your wife.’

McLarry was jailed for five years and banned from being a director for eight years.

Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, said: ‘Patrick McLarry held himself out as a pillar of the community.

‘We were determined that he should face justice for defrauding pension savers. This sends a clear warning that we will use the full force of our powers and work with partner enforcement agencies to protect pension savers.

‘McLarry tried every trick in the book to hide his actions and squander the pension pots of those he was responsible for, but we were able to uncover the truth and bring him to justice.’

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