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An association treasurer has been handed a suspended jail sentence for stealing thousands of pounds intended for good causes.
Following a lengthy investigation by Dyfed-Powys Police, Lee Squelch, of Llanddewi Velfrey admitted four counts of fraud after defrauding the Pembrokeshire Bridleways and Byways Association out of more than £6,300.
The offences came to light in December 2018 when a report of theft was made by the association, which aims to improve access to bridleways while also raising money for a range of charities.
They reported issues with their treasurer – 37-year-old Squelch – who had failed to produce accounts for four years, and who they suspected had been stealing money.
Investigating officer Sergeant Gerwyn Davies said: “During this time, Bridleways had arranged a number of events believing the funds raised were being donated to a number of charities including the Wales Air Ambulance, Royal British Legion, RNLI, Greenacres Animal Rescue, Healing the Wounds, and Hive Youth Club in Haverfordwest.
“However it was established that while claiming he had made the relevant donations to these charities, Squelch had falsified invoices and paid the cheques to himself. He tried to cover this up by writing the charity names on the cheque stubs.
“In total, he had taken £6,300 from these deserving organisations.”
Despite denying the allegations throughout the investigation, Squelch entered a guilty plea at court on March 5 – such was the evidence compiled against him. He appeared at Swansea Crown Court on Friday, April 30 where he was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for 18 months. He must carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and complete a rehabilitation course.
Sgt Davies added: “This was a long enquiry involving a number of witness statements, financial enquiries and court orders, which was made more difficult by Squelch’s continual denial of the offences.
“With a number of charities struggling through the Covid-19 pandemic, this money could have – and should have – been used for a number of benefits including funding life-saving devices, equipment for children to enjoy at youth club, or helping to care for rescued animals.”