A fraudster has been jailed for four years after stealing nearly £32,000 from the charity he worked for and spending the money on Viagra and "extreme dating". David Field also spent the brain injury charity's funds on buying flowers for his wife and a hotel rendezvous with a mystery woman. He was put in charge of the finances at a regional branch of Headway after lying about his qualifications and covering up two previous fraud convictions.
During four months at the charity's offices in Credenhill, Herefordshire he managed to swindle £31,713 thanks to his privileged position, Hereford Crown Court heard this week. Field, 56, used Headway's debit card to withdraw £15,000 in cash and spend £16,713 on the internet between August 2010 and January 2011. His online shopping included shipments of erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, which he had shipped to the charity's offices. He also spent £150 on a subscription to a so-called "extreme dating" website - thought to be dating between those who share a love of outdoor sports - and bought his then wife £100 worth of flowers. Field paid for a woman known only as 'Rachel' to go on holiday, and used the charity's money to pay for a meeting with her at a Travelodge hotel in Hereford. While he told colleagues she was providing the charity with IT services, judge Daniel Pearce-Higgins said "the relationship was clearly more than that". In addition, Field used Headway's cash to pay off gambling, council tax and credit card debts.
The scam came to light when a lawyer working for one of Field's previous employers got in touch with Headway to warn them about his fraud convictions. When confronted by staff at the centre, Field admitted being jailed for 12 months in 1992, and again for three years in 1999.
Jailed: Field had previously served two separate prison sentences for fraud in the 1990s
He tried to shrug off the sentences, telling colleagues he had been jailed on a "technicality" - but charity bosses became suspicious and called the police. During police interviews Field claimed he had been "stitched up", but on the first day of his trial last November he changed his plea to guilty. On Monday, he was sentenced to four years in prison. The court heard that the charity paid Field a £13,000 salary, meaning he had cost Headway £45,000 in total - and because he has since declared bankruptcy, the charity will be unable to reclaim the money.
Speaking after the sentencing, a spokesman for the charity criticised Field's "brutal betrayal". "There is no winner in this situation.This was a callous and calculating act, a brutal betrayal of trust and that is why we welcome the tough sentence. Fraud is often described as a victimless crime but the human impact is certainly very real - the charity has been left on the brink. The money taken will never be recouped - that is £45,000 we will never see again." Headway works to rehabilitate people with brain injuries, and offers support to their carers and families.