A BOGUS clergyman who offered jobs to vulnerable adults in South Tyneside while he was on the run from police has been jailed for five years.
George Gordon – who called himself ‘The Reverend’ after buying the title from a Canadian website – got £90,000 from a fund that was supposed to pay for good causes on Merseyside, but the 51-year-old Liverpudlian pocketed the money.
He was arrested in 2008 after a police investigation, but disappeared while on bail.
Last year, while on the run, Gordon moved to the North East and rang South Tyneside employment agency Ten – posing as a Chris Lawler – to say he was setting up a community interest company in South Shields and needed staff.
He told Ten bosses that he had links with the Bishop of Durham and was looking for 24 disabled adults to work at a unit in Tyne Dock refurbishing computers.
However, he was arrested for his crimes in Liverpool after a national appeal to trace him and pleaded guilty to 20 fraud charges at Liverpool Crown Court earlier this month and was back yesterday to be sentenced.
The court heard he had previously been convicted of similar crimes in 1988, and had served separate three-year and four-year sentences for theft and obtaining money by deception in the 1990s.
He gained about £90,000 by applying for grants of £5,000 from the Merseyside Disability Foundation (MDF), tricking it with fake names and signatures and falsely representing existing community groups or inventing organisations.
Gordon then siphoned off the cash to buy his flat in Chancellor Court, Toxteth, Liverpool.
Jailing him for five years on every charge – to run concurrently – Judge Stephen Everett said: “You pleaded guilty to a callous set of offences of dishonesty, the audacity takes a person’s breath away.
“You posed as an ordained priest, claimed you had academic qualifications you clearly do not and clothed yourself with an air of respectability and trustworthiness, to get cash for your own ends.”
Dyspraxia sufferer Neil Taylor, of South Shields, was offered a modern apprenticeship by Gordon in December.
The 24-year-old’s father, John, 54, who lives with his wife, Allison, 50, and other son, David, 26, demanded to know how a fugitive was allowed to work with some of the region’s most vulnerable.
The IT worker said: “He offered jobs and destroyed people’s lives.
“He had access to vulnerable people, despite being on the run from police.”
The mother of another jobseeker said: “He preyed on the most vulnerable and promised them jobs he was never going to deliver.”