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'ROBIN HOOD' FIGURE IN PS270K CHARITY FRAUD TO FUND LUXURY HOLIDAYS.

ACHARITY treasurer described as a "modern day Robin Hood" duped taxpayers out of PS270,000 by making false Gift Aid claims - to pay for extravagant holidays and meals out. Fraudster Dale Hicks spent PS77,000 with a travel agent on 13 luxury getaways in two years after pocketing the cash he defrauded from HMRC.

The 35-year-old even kept an online travel blog of his experiences cruising to exotic locations across the world.

His Instagram account is full of pictures of him travelling business class to far-flung destinations, including Aruba, Mexico, The Bahamas and China.

And he would also dish out lavish sums to relatives and friends who were down on their luck as he "wanted to do good in the world".

Between 2014 and 2016 Hicks: | Transferred PS39,000 to his mum's account ; | Withdrew PS20,000 in cash; | Gave PS30,000 to a woman who featured in his holiday bookings; | Spent PS77,000 with a travel company on 13 holidays; | Paid out PS11,920 to Royal Caribbean; | Spent PS8,731.95 on cruise ships.

The defendant, from Cheadle, Staffordshire, has been jailed for three years after admitting his crimes.

Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard Hicks was a treasurer of the Life Keys charity, which was set up to help prisoners and ex-prisoners.

After hearing another charity benefited financially by accidentally submitting an inflated Gift Aid claim, he decided to do the same.

Prosecutor Mark Monaghan told the court Life Keys received less than PS3,000 a year in donations, but the defendant applied to register for Gift Aid to enable the charity to claim back 25 per cent of any donation made by a taxpayer.

In total, the defendant submitted 32 claims to the HMRC for Gift Aid and was paid PS270,860, which he then transferred to his own account.

Mr Monaghan said: "He inflated the amount of donations very substantially and he provided the names and addresses of people who existed but had not made substantial donations to Life Keys.

"The total amount he claimed was PS332,509 and PS270,860 was paid.

"The trustees became suspicious and the defendant sought to hide from them what was happening. He failed to attend meetings or provide documents they asked for."

Hicks was removed from his position of treasurer and a signatory to the charity's bank account in 2016.

But he forged the signature of one of the trustees in an attempt to switch the account the Gift Aid was paid so he could carry on with the fraud.

The defendant was interviewed by police in April, 2018.

He admitted he put in false claims and accepted he received a large amount of money as a result.

He said he gave the money to good causes, including PS10,000 to a church and sent PS8,000 in aid to Romania.

Hicks pleaded guilty to fraud, using a false instrument and using a false instrument with intent.

Antony Longworth, mitigating, said: "He became aware another charity had received money from Gift Aid by error because of a nought in the wrong place. He fell into temptation and made a claim which was not legitimate in December, 2014, to see if it worked. It was successful. He realised this was something he could do.

"Although it is clear he was himself benefiting and taking part in lavish holidays, he was also giving lavishly to others."

Judge Paul Glenn said: "You were very generous with money that was not yours to spend.

"You continued to paint yourself as a latter day Robin Hood sort of figure. The victims are taxpayers. A number of deserving cases were potentially deprived of public funding, no doubt, because of your actions."

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Dale Hicks arrives at court and pictured on his luxury cruises
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jun 9, 2019
Words:626
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