Gift Aid fraudster who used charity cash to fund luxury lifestyle is jailed for three years

A treasurer who stole more than £270,000 from a charity has been jailed for three years, a report has revealed.

The investigation carried out by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and the Charity Commission, found that Dale Hicks, the charity treasurer for Staffordshire-based organisation Life Keys, diverted more than £270,000 in a sophisticated Gift Aid repayment fraud between 2014 and 2016.

Mr Hicks pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud by false representation and two counts of producing false documents last week.

The court heard how the charity finance manager successfully claimed more than £270,000 in Gift Aid over the two year period, spending at least £76,000 to support a luxury lifestyle, including holidays to Aruba, Mexico, the Bahamas and China.

According to HMRC, the falsely claimed amount would have required at least £1.3 million in legitimate donations, but a closer look at the charity’s accounts revealed that nowhere near those amounts had been deposited.

The claims were made on behalf of the Life Keys charity, an organisation set up to rehabilitee ex-offenders.

The charity said it was only made aware of the fraud after large sums started arriving into its accounts, before being swiftly moved on.

After an internal investigation, Mr Hicks was removed from his voluntary position, but he still persisted in making two attempts to change the charity’s nominated bank account into an account under his control.

Commenting on the case, Nick Stone, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “This was not a momentary lapse. This was persistent, it was calculated and it was despicable. He betrayed the trust of colleagues at a genuine charity that was trying to help criminals turn their lives around.

“Dale Hicks spent this stolen money on himself and booked a string of luxury holidays that most hardworking people could only dream of. The taxpayer paid for these extravagant holidays, and he posted about them on social media.”

Mr Stone added: “I urge anybody who knows of anyone committing any type of tax fraud to report them to HMRC online, or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”