Shamed Age Concern boss declared bankrupt after £700,000 theft from charity

A greedy chief executive who was jailed for stealing over £700,000 from an Age Concern charity has been made bankrupt and stripped of all of his assets.

Friday, 29th March 2019, 2:15 pm
Updated Friday, 29th March 2019, 2:23 pm
John Briers has been stripped of all of his assets.
John Briers has been stripped of all of his assets.

The huge scale of his dishonesty caused six redundancies at the organisation, which helps around 20% of South Tyneside's elderly and needy and, despite it being renamed and rebranded, was left struggling.

Briers was convicted in May 2018.

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At Newcastle Crown Court last May Briers was jailed for seven years by a judge who told him: "The only conclusion I am driven to is it was pure selfish greed on your part to cushion with extravagance your life and that of your family. "

Briers' case has now been back before the same court, where he has now been stripped of the last asset he had, which was a £27,257.50.

Prosecutors had pursued the disgraced executive under the Proceeds of Crime Act, which concluded that he had benefited by £707,749 through his crimes.

The hearing was told Briers has already been pursued by the charity through the civil courts and was declared bankrupt as a result.

He is serving a seven-year prison sentence.

The civil court was unable to seize the £27,257 pension, which has now been confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act and ordered to be paid to the charity.

Prosecutor Anthony Dunne told the court: "Following the discovery of this fraud, the charity that the defendant was employed by took civil action to recover the proceeds of that fraud from him and obtained judgement in the High Court against him for the full sum of the amount that had been defrauded.

"As a result of that order, or following that order, Mr Briers was declared bankrupt."

The court heard bankruptcy trustees took control of Briers' assets and confiscated all he had.

Mr Dunne added: "The only asset of Mr Briers that could not be appointed by the trustees, for specific legal reasons, was a pension fund available to him.

"However, that fund is withing the scope of his available assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act."

The judge said: "There will be three months for that to be made available and paid. There will be 18 months imprisonment in default of that payment being made."

Briers is banned from being a company director for the next 10 years as part of his sentence.

At the previous hearing, Judge Gittins said Briers had been "arrogant" in his attempts to cover his tracks and divert blame to others while giving evidence during the trial and added: "It would be laughable if it wasn't so serious".

Former financial manager Graham Cassidy, who took over as chief executive, told the court after the trial that on top of the £700,000 stolen by Briers, the charity has lost another £590,000 as a result of the fraud.

Mr Cassidy said the organisation has had to find £200,000 in legal fees, lost £250,000 in income and had to fork out £78,000 in audit fees.

He said the charity has remortgaged their building to "keep us going" and owe a £94,000 payment to the local authority, which stemmed from Briers' fraud.

The court heard six people were made redundant from the organisation, four staff had to reduce hours and management had to take on increasing workloads in order for it to survive after the fraud.

Mr Cassidy said the negative publicity associated with Briers' behaviour has led to a huge slump in donations and put off some volunteers from future involvement.

The court heard Briers had paid 60 of the charity's cheques into his own bank account, awarded himself 11 unauthorised bonuses and 19 additional pension contributions when he was Chief Executive Officer at the South Tyneside based branch on Beach Road, South Shields.

Briers denied three offences of fraud between January 2007 and August 2015 but was found guilty after trial.

Briers pocketed £433,236 through fraudulent cheques which he claimed were for suppliers, paid himself £104,560 in bonuses, including a special, duplicate monthly salary of £5,756, on one occasion, and he used £169,703 of the charity's cash to top-up his pension.

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He used fake invoices and even fraudulent minutes of board meetings in a bid to cover his tracks.

Briers, of Woodstock Road, Gateshead, made no comment during police interview.

Briers told jurors, from the witness box during the trial, he was entitled to the payments and bonuses that went into his bank and that he also used the account to pay cash for services used by the charity.

The executive, who created fake invoices to try and cover his deception, claimed the bogus documents were simply "placeholders" to assist with accounting when the originals were lost and were never intended to look real.

Briers had claimed large sums of money would go through his account and be kept in the safe at his office to pay for services used by the charity and were never hidden from colleagues.