A man who defrauded three charities, including his local church, out of nearly £500,000, has been jailed following an investigation by the City of London Police’s fraud team.
Craig McCulloch, 34, of Celandine Close, Lancashire (OL15) was sentenced to three years in prison at Southwark Crown Court on 10 December 2020, after pleading guilty to four counts of fraud by abuse of position over a six and a half year period.
He also received a five year serious crime prevention order which the lead officer in the case, DC Baker, hopes will stop him returning to his criminal ways following his release, as he will be monitored by police during this period.
Detective Constable Mark Baker, from the City of London Police’s fraud team, said: “McCulloch is one of the most devious individuals I have ever dealt with. He stole charity and church donations and used them for his own personal gain. He presented an image of someone caring, involved in his local community, leading a Christian lifestyle, and being generous with his money.
“His actions have left many people feeling shocked and deceived. The fraud he has committed has impacted the charities concerned in different ways, with some struggling to fund important services they would normally provide.
“We hope today’s result will provide the charities and victims in this case with some comfort. However, we will continue to fight for justice for them by pursuing confiscation orders, following conviction, in the hope we can return some of the funds they have lost.”
McCulloch worked within the accounting departments of two charities based in London. In this role he gained access to the company’s bank accounts and devised a complex method to send payments to himself.
To cover his tracks, he gave the payments similar names to those of genuine suppliers, and amended the company records and accounting system to avoid raising any suspicions.
In addition to his employment within the charities, McCulloch volunteered as the treasurer of his local church in London between September 2013 and December 2018.
The investigation identified, during this time, he was stealing significant funds from the church congregation, and the church bank account, without them knowing. He deceived the local community for five years, benefitting himself with funds of over £130,000.
The investigation by the City of London Police, the national policing lead force for fraud, discovered McCulloch had squandered the majority of the money he had stolen from the charities away, using it to buy fast food takeaways, making purchases on eBay and spending it on rental cars. This was despite the fact his accounts were continually overdrawn.
Rev. Laura Jane Hewitt, from St. James Church, New Barnet, said: “In our community we share the sense of shock and betrayal of trust, despite having shown great resilience in recent months, continuing in generosity, growing in faith, worship and service to the community.
“We identify with the other charities who have been damaged by Craig McCulloch’s actions. They too are in our prayers but so is Craig’s wife Jackie and their child who have been affected in a way that none of the rest us have. Now that justice has been done, we hope and pray that Craig himself will seek to put his life right and find a fresh start.
“Regrettably, we are unlikely to see restitution of the money lost, but as we come to terms with that, we are closer to each other than before.
“We have strengthened our internal checks and controls and reported the matter as a serious incident to the Charity Commission, to make us more able to withstand, should anyone ever try anything like this again, I am confident that past lessons have been learnt and look forward to the next chapter for the Church.”