Hearts charity bookkeeper jailed for stealing £53,000

Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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The administrator of the Big Hearts Community Trust has been jailed for 16 months after embezzling more than £53,000 to pay off loan sharks.

Kelly Arundel, 33, previously pleaded guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to taking £53,652.81 from the charity between March 1 and August 14, 2013. Sentence had been deferred until yesterday for background reports.

At first it was a small amount of money, but it began to spiral out of control

Lynn Swan

The Big Hearts Community Trust was founded in 2006 to encourage local youth to participate in sport.

Arundel, as administrator and bookkeeper, was the sole person in the office at Tynecastle Stadium.

Money coming to the charity was mainly in cash donations and in August 2013 it was noticed there was a delay in donations being transferred to its bank account.

A member of the charity gained access to the stadium office and was immediately able to see transfers had been made to people he did not recognise.

Fiscal depute Melanie Ward had told the court that Arundel, from Bainsford, Falkirk, initially denied any knowledge of these transfers, but then admitted it and became tearful.

She said she had transferred the money to bank accounts under her control or the control of people she knew.

A few hours after the meeting, Ms Ward said Arundel had sent “a pretty frank e-mail admitting she was in trouble with some dangerous people that she owed large sums of money to”.

The court had been told that Arundel was now an inmate at Cornton Vale, having been jailed for 27 months in November last year for offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act, and that her 
earliest release date was January next year.

Defence solicitor Lynn Swan told Sheriff Paul Arthurson QC that her client had a four-year-old daughter and had been working part-time for the Trust.

She said: “With travelling expenses, nursery expenses and the care of her child, she had little or nothing left and borrowed money from loan sharks.

“At first it was a small amount of money, but it began to spiral out of control and she could not make repayment.”

Arundel began taking cocaine, the court heard.

Ms Swan added: “These were people who were heavy-handed and when she could not make repayment they insisted she supply drugs.”

Sheriff Arthurson asked if a single penny of the embezzled money had been repaid and was told that £2000 she had been owed in wages was being kept by the charity.

He told Arundel: “You will be aware the charge you pleaded guilty to is a very serious one, carried out over five-and-a-half months and taking in excess of £50,000.”

He added that the background reports were very much in her favour.

The court heard she had been studying with a view to going to college or university on her release, was now drug-free, and had turned her life around.

However, Sheriff Arthurson said, she required to be punished for the embezzlement as a deterrent to others.

As Arundel had pleaded guilty at an early stage, he reduced a 24-month sentence to one of 16 months.