A TRAIN guard who betrayed hundreds of his colleagues by stealing more than £150,000 from their benevolent fund has been jailed for four years.
William Simon Modern, aged 56, of Maple Grove, Hoole, had admitted pocketing £154,000 from the Chester Death and Retirement Fund over a six-year period, using some of it to pay for work on his house and a holiday to America.
The married father-of-three, who was a freemason and fundraiser, was elected treasurer of the fund – run by and for the benefit of current and retired employees of Arriva Trains Wales – in 1998 when the total amount stood at over £128,000.
When Modern was caught in February this year after a cheque bounced there was just £13 left, Chester Crown Court heard yesterday (Wednesday).
The 400-plus members of the fund, many of whom were friends of Modern and had known him for more than 20 years, would have expected it to have increased to over £170,000 by that time.
Between the end of 2003 and the beginning of this year, he transferred money from the fund directly into his account, forged the signatures of the assistant treasurer and secretary on cheques, as well as making out cheques to himself, and pocketed takings from the staff games machine.
The total amount Modern stole from the misuse of cheques was over £107,000. Based on what the games machine was expected to make over a six year period it is estimated he would have taken £61,000, although he would often use the takings to cover shortfalls in the fund’s account.
To cover his tracks, Modern would create fictitious annual accounts and lie that they had been endorsed by a solicitor.
Members of the fund would be entitled to £1,200 when they retired, a £20 voucher every Christmas and the chance to win £50 in the fortnightly draw.
In a statement read out in court, assistant treasurer John Hughes said: “I feel betrayed by a so-called friend. I’m sick to the stomach by the way I’ve been used.”
Former worker Malcolm Jones, who had been a member of the fund since 1979, said he had spoken to Modern a week before his retirement and was reassured he would get his money.
Another worker had planned to use his retirement cash to fund a move to Italy with his wife. Neither man received it.
The Hon Recorder of Chester, Judge Elgan Edwards, said: “Your conduct was quite despicable. Over a six or seven year period you stole and stole again.
“Stealing from the friends you work with and socialise with. All at the same time bleeding their fund dry to pay for your dishonest lifestyle.”
Defending, Peter Moss said Modern had become an alcoholic over the six year period and suffers from emphysema.
He added: “He unreservedly expresses his remorse and contrition. He stands before you a terrified rabbit in a set of headlights.”
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Sergeant Graham Martland of British Transport Police said: “I’m pleased with the sentence and totally support the judge’s comments.
“It was a breach of trust and friendship. The relationships that have been damaged are irreparable. This deception would have continued and continued.”
A confiscation hearing has been set for Wednesday, April 20, at Chester Crown Court.