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A swimming club treasurer has been jailed for three years after stealing thousands of pounds from its funds.

John Crawford left Bootle swimming club in severe financial difficulty after abusing his position of trust over a period of three years.

The 59-year-old who is formerly from Maghull but currently lives in Wavertree acted as treasurer for the 135-year-old club for six years and, once established in the role, started to move cash from its various accounts into one used for paying invoices.

But instead of paying the invoices, he wrote out cheques to himself or his off-licence businesses.

Crawford also forged a mandate for £15,000 and persuaded swimming club committee members to sign cheques which they thought were for club expenses but were in fact pocketed by Crawford himself.

Another tactic the former bank manager used was internet banking to transfer large sums from the club to his own accounts, and the creation of bogus monthly and annual reports purporting to show the club in good financial health to cover his tracks.

In total, Crawford’s fraudulent transactions amounted to £430,000 (the total beneift figure presented to the court), however due to many of his cheques  bouncing and some of his transactions failing to go through, the club suffered actual cash losses of £57,000.

Detectives from Sefton CID who investigated the theft and fraud offences even found evidence that Crawford raided the petty cash collection and asked for money from swimming club members to hold events and buy merchandise which never materialised.

In his role of treasurer Crawford also failed to pay the club’s pool hire bill, which put the club at risk of legal action. Committee members remained oblivious as only Crawford received those legal letters and he failed to pass them on. Investigators found he tried to pay off the debt by acquiring a £16,000 loan in his wife’s name – another criminal offence.

Liverpool Crown Court heard today that the club still owes a debt of £14,000 which may take it eight or nine years to pay off.

Crawford’s frauds were uncovered when police were called to a domestic incident at his home for which he later received a suspended prison sentence.

Detectives found a letter written by Crawford which alluded to him having stolen money from the swimming club. The discovery of the letter then sparked the police’s fraud enquiry.

Detective Inspector David Keegan, who led the Sefton CID investigation, said: “John Crawford has completely broken the trust of all the members of this swimming club. In breaching his position of trust he has systematically and callously stolen the entire worth of the club and left it in financial crisis and near to collapse.

“He used his knowledge of the banking world to his own advantage and out of pure greed he manipulated innocent people who were running a community facility into thinking he was acting in the best interests of the club when in fact the opposite was true.

“I hope today’s sentencing shows John Crawford to be the criminal that he is and sends out a clear message to other people who try to steal money in this way that Merseyside Police will investigate you and will put you before the courts where you face a very real prospect of jail.”

As well as a three year prison sentence, Crawford was also ordered to pay the swimming club £26,000 in compensation. The figure is based on the equity released from his share of the sale of his house.
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