An assistant town clerk has been jailed for four years after she admitted to stealing more than £200,000 of public funds.
Rebecca Mason was sentenced today (June 12) at Stafford Crown Court after pleading guilty to fraud at magistrates’ court in Cannock on 15 May.
The court heard that Mason had stolen £218,418 in 242 separate payments between 18 February 2017 and 10 December 2018 from Rugeley Town Council.
Checks revealed Mason, aged 42, has spent all of the money and now has little or no means.
The money was defrauded from the council’s accounts into her own savings account by way of false accounting. Mason then transferred the money across to her current account and spent it.
She said the money had been spent on keeping horses, a deposit for a flat, and a holiday in Turkey amongst other expenditure and admitted that most of it had been ‘frittered away’.
As assistant town clerk Mason’s role had been to administer and monitor financial and payroll systems. When a clerk from another parish council was appointed she raised concerns over a number of money transfers that had been taking place on a monthly basis.
Mason, of School Walk, Chase Terrace, admitted to police she had disguised the payments made to her account, falsely attributing money she had stolen as an excessive gas and electric bill.
Detective Constable Nick Gorman, of Staffordshire Police, said: “This was a significant amount of money that was stolen from the public purse by Rebecca Mason who dishonestly abused her position for her own financial gain in this case.
"Although she pleaded guilty at the first opportunity she knows this was a betrayal of trust that continued for some time.”
In a statement, Rugeley Town Council said: "Rebecca Mason was employed by Rugeley Town Council from April 2008 and had been a valued and trusted member of staff. In that time, she had been promoted from Finance Officer to Assistant Town Clerk which was the position she held at the time of the offences. Her responsibilities included administering and monitoring the financial systems of the council including the payment of accounts.
"Rebecca Mason was dismissed from the Town Council on 26th February 2019. She was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct following a detailed investigation which was carried out by an independent investigator on behalf of the Town Council. The matter was also referred to the police and was subject to their investigation.
"Following a guilty plea of fraud involving the theft of £218,418 from Rugeley Town Council, Rebecca Mason appeared at Stafford Crown Court on 12th June 2019 to be sentenced.
"Rugeley Town Council held reserves to cover unforeseen contingencies and in anticipation of specific future projects. The biggest single element of those reserves resulted from the sale of the former council offices in 2007 together with budgeting over the last 10 + years. It is these reserves which have been stolen.
"Amongst the planned future projects and improvements to services, was the proposal for improved play facilities, enhancements to the towns Christmas Lights and decorations and modernisation of facilities at the Rose Theatre. The theft of this money will inevitably mean that the future of these projects may have to be reviewed. It will also mean that over the next 10 years, the council will need to budget to cover contingencies such as maintenance work.
"Rugeley Town Council will continue to provide the current facilities and operate as normal."