A housing maintenance company director who pocketed more than £16,000 paid by residents for the upkeep of their properties has been spared jail.
Kenneth Clark, 65, was in charge of a firm set up by tenants at a block of private flats in Mill Dam, South Shields.
It was established to take care of services such as cleaning and gardening.
Newcastle Crown Court heard discrepancies in the accounts were spotted when Clark resigned and a new director stepped in during the summer of 2014.
Matthew Bean, prosecuting, told the court: “As he took over the conduct of the financial affairs, he became increasingly concerned proper records had not been kept.”
The police were contacted when Clark refused to attend a residents’ meeting in 2015.
This meant a series of financial questions were left unanswered.
A formal investigation revealed Clark had paid some cash from the company account to himself.
The court heard there were a series of payments “falsely claimed” to have been used for services such as gardeners and cleaners.
Clark, of Wear Court, South Shields, admitted two charges of fraud totalling £16,085.
Judge Stephen Earl sentenced him to 15 months behind bars, suspended for two years, with supervision.
The court heard despite the large sum of money involved in the fraud, the 65-year-old has no assets to pay back what he had taken.
The judge ordered him to pay just £1.
But he warned: “If he wins the lottery on Friday night, The Crown will come back.”
Judge Earl said the residents - including senior citizens and vulnerable people - had been “enormously let down” after placing their trust in Clark.
The court heard Clark, who is a carer for his sick wife, has health problems of his own.
The job was not a paid position and he had believed he was entitled to money from the company.
He has never been in trouble before.
Judge Earl told him: “It is very sad. You are a man with no previous convictions.
“You came before the court as a man of good character, but will not leave as a man of good character.”