A court has ordered a corrupt church accountant - sentenced to five years jail for stealing over £500,000 - to repay just £1.
57-year-old Stephen Methuen, cynically abused his position of trust as a treasurer at Amblecote Christian Centre in Stourbridge and the Christian International Relief Mission to snaffle £517,000 over a six-year period.
Wolverhampton Crown Court heard yesterday that as Methuen had 'no available assets', a nominal offer of £1 was to be paid under the proceeds of crime act. His solicitor, John Attwood said he was "grateful" to the court.
His dishonest ways were only unearthed when pastor Adrian Lowe, his personal friend, spotted irregularities while carrying out a financial assessment and called the police.
Methuen pleaded guilty to 12 charges of false accounting at a hearing earlier this year and four offences of cheating HMRC. He began his five-year jail term for his crimes last month.
In a joint investigation by HMRC and West Midlands Police, they discovered that the cash had been transferred to Methuen's own bank account.
When interviewed, Methuen told HMRC investigators he was innocent and the discrepancies were due to errors with computer software. However, digital forensic analysis of computers proved this to be a lie. He had transferred around £517,000 to his own account and paid off his personal credit cards.
Graham Ranson, assistant director criminal taxes unit, HMRC, said: 'The Gift Aid scheme is designed to benefit charities, but Methuen continued to falsify business records for his own financial benefit. The prison sentence handed out by the courts today sends out a clear message that crime does not pay and the community will be horrified to learn he exploited and stole from these charities and the taxpayer, in a sustained and methodical way, over a number of years.'