A FORMER police worker from Lostock Gralam has been handed a suspended prison sentence after admitting stealing more than £3,700 from a community centre.
Tony Hayes, 47, of Station Road, the former treasurer of Lostock Community Centre, worked as a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) for two years.
Chester Crown Court heard how he used donations given to the community centre to pay off personal debts until he was caught out in August last year.
He had set up Direct Debits from the centre's account to pay off his TV licence and phone and internet bills, and used other money to fund his mortgage payments. He even paid off a speeding fine with cash collected by volunteers.
Hayes pleaded guilty to 12 counts of theft and three charges of false accounting at Chester Crown Court on Friday and was given an eight-month suspended sentence.
Welcoming the verdict, Shaun Wells, chairman of Lostock Parish Council, said: 'He was in a position of trust. He's blown his career and he's got a criminal record - I think that's punishment enough.' Hayes' scam was uncovered when committee members called a crisis meeting to discuss his lack of attendance at meetings and the failure to show the centre's accounts. He produced false figures but members found two legitimate cheques had bounced and after looking into previous transactions realised the deception.
Cllr Wells said: 'For someone to pay their TV licence and bills through a Direct Debit from a charity doesn't exactly leave a difficult trail to follow. It was a very stupid thing to do.'
Cllr Wells said the council was now trying to help get the community centre back on its feet. He said: 'The centre has been struggling and we are trying to help. We don't want to see it close but it has lost a lot of money and it was a big blow.'
Hayes has now lost his job as a uniformed patrol officer. He maintained he had intended to pay the money back which he now has. He was also ordered to pay £1,000 in costs.