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HEARTLESS undertaker James Woods ripped off clients at his funeral parlour for more than pounds 12,000.

Sick Woods took cash for funerals and then kept the money, Perth Sheriff Court heard yesterday.

The 59-year-old funeral manager even stole from the collection plate at a number of funerals.

Woods admitted 15 charges of embezzlement and theft over a two year period.

Depute fiscal Jane Benson told the court the thefts came to light after he had taken pounds 100 from petty cash to pay for curtains for the funeral parlour then entered a receipt for pounds 200.

Perth funeral directors Strang & McLagan - owned by a US parent company - launched an investigation while Woods was on holiday.

Mrs Benson said Woods was confronted and immediately confessed to a series of cons.

Mrs Benson said: "He admitted he had been misappropriating funds for a period of about two years.

"He provided a list of clients from whom he had secured cash payments, and had kept the cash for his own use."

Woods, from Almondbank, Perthshire, was suspended and told the company he would repay the money. None of it was repaid and the police were called in.

Mrs Benson said: "In one case an 87-year-old organised a pre-paid funeral and was provided with a worthless document from the accused who took the money."

Woods organised a funeral at Perth Crematorium in November 1996 and agreed that pounds 300 in donations would go to a cancer charity but kept the cash for himself.

Defence solicitor Shirley Smith said he had been suffering from financial worries after working 20 years for the company.

She said: "He took the first money intending to pay it back. The thefts started because of his poor financial position and escalated."

The Sheriff deferred sentence on Woods for three weeks for social background and community service reports.

Last night a spokeswoman for the company said: "Clients who were defrauded have been repaid and are not out of pocket and we have also replaced all monies that had gone astray."
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Author:Currie, Gordon
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 18, 1998
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