Elderly woman pocketed £70,000 from her church over 17 years

Chalmers Memorial Church, Picture: Google
Chalmers Memorial Church, Picture: Google
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A 70-year old woman, who acted as treasurer of her local church for over 17 years, has admitted embezzling over £70,000 from the kirk.

Janet Farquhar of East Lorimer Place, Cockenzie in East lothian, pled guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today to embezzling £72,155.34 from Chalmers Memorial Church in Port Seton between January 16, 2008, and July 11, 2016.

Fiscal Depute, Rachel Adey, told Sheriff Peter Braid that in June 10, 2016, the Executive Treasurer of the Church’s Finance Committee submitted a report on a number of congregations who were behind in their contributions to the Church of Scotland. Chalmers Memorial was highlighted as having significant dues. The Treasurer had sent a number of letters to Ms Farquhar, but never received any replies.

Ms Adey said more letters were sent asking for reasons for missing payments and offering assistance to solve any issues. There was no reply by July, 2016, but in August that year, Farquhar contacted the Church saying she would: “look into the issues of where payments had gone”.

On August 15, 2016, Farquhar was questioned about the payments and replied that the Bank of Scotland was “looking into it”. The Church contacted an elder of Chalmers Memorial Church, who worked in the Bank of Scotland, asking if she could find out where the money had been going, if not to the Church. The elder discovered that some of the payments, supposed to have been made, were statement from 2013 and the year had been altered. She also found that two cheques for £345 and £385 had been cashed by the accused at the Prestonpans branch of the bank, and in September 2016, Farquhar was removed from her position as the church’s treasurer.

Further investigations showed that between 2008 and 2016, Farquhar had taken £59,752.34 by cashing cheques and a further £12,403 from the church’s Collection money.

The Fiscal said that so far, Farquhar had repaid £15,000 to the Church.

Defence solicitor, Colm Dempsey, admitted it was a “very serious matter”, and, as his client had no previous convictions, reports would be necessary so he would give a full plea in mitigation later. However, he stated, steps had been taken to ensure that all the money would be repaid. “It is a grave offence, but there should be no loss to the Church ultimately” he said.

Sheriff Braid deferred sentence on Farquhar until April 30 for reports and continued her bail.