A member and an officer of Sudbury Town Council have told how a woman convicted of a £15,000 fraud nearly got away with it.
Lucy McNaul from Grenville Road, Sudbury, was convicted last week of stealing £15,000 of public money that had been earmarked for a youth centre in the town.
Ipswich Crown Court heard on August 8, how McNaul was left with £15,000 from the £29,400 grant she was awarded – but failed to return the unused cash.
McNaul, who pleaded guilty to an offence of fraud by false representation, was caught out when the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) produced a list of successful projects which its grants had supported and which listed McNaul’s centre.
Keen followers of the youth club proposal, Sudbury town councillor John Sayers and deputy town clerk Jacqui Howells together spotted the claim and reported to the MoJ that the planned clubhouse and community hub had never actually been set up.
“Eventually we managed to speak to someone [from the MoJ],” Mrs Howells said.
“As far as they were concerned they were convinced the money had been spent and the project finished.”
Mr Sayers agreed, saying: “If it was not for myself and Jacqui nothing would have happened.
“She would probably have got away with it.”
A spokesman for the MoJ said: “These allegations were taken seriously and we cooperated fully with the police investigation. Action was taken as soon as we became aware of concerns about the possible misuse of funding.”
Both were unhappy that the £15,000 left over, after some of the grant had been legitimately used by McNaul, had still not come to Sudbury.
The money had been earmarked for renting a premises above the Co-operative store in East Street, Sudbury, until the proposed premises were no longer available.
Despite a deadline for returning unused funds to the MoJ – and later correspondence in which McNaul said she would send a cheque to cover the £15,000 – nothing was ever received.
“We had hoped the money would come back,” said Mrs Howells.
“But it doesn’t seem likely. It’s disappointing, there’s currently a need in the town and funding is difficult to obtain.”
Mr Sayers said he, too, was “bitterly disappointed” by the whole situation and the opportunity missed to create a new centre for young people.
“This money was destined for a youth centre and we have nothing to show for it,” he said.
“I am responsible for building up the youngsters’ expectations.
“We had faith in her, when she came to the town council and presented we believed she was sincere.”
Sentencing, Judge Rupert Overbury said McNaul’s offending had been serious and had it not been for the long delay in the case coming to court after her full confession, he would have imposed an immediate prison sentence.
Instead, McNaul was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months, plus 180 hours of unpaid community work.
Mr Sayers said the sentence was not “as severe” as he thought it might have been.
“The amount of money was quite considerable,” he said.
“In my book she’s got off lightly, she’s fortunate.”