A charity treasurer duped taxpayers out of £270,000 by making false Gift Aid claims to pay for five star holidays and meals out.
Dale Hicks, described as a ‘modern day Robin Hood’ spent £77,000 on 13 luxury getaways in two years after pocketing the cash he defrauded from HMRC.
Hicks, 35, even kept an online travel blog of his playboy lifestyle and adventures to exotic locations across the world.
His Instagram account is full of pictures of him travelling business class to far-flung destinations including Aruba, Mexico, the Bahamas and China.
He would also dish out lavish sums to relatives and friends who were hard on their luck as he ‘wanted to do good in the world’.
Between 2014 and 2016 Hicks transferred £39,000 to his mum’s account, withdrew £20,000 in cash, gave £30,000 to a woman who also featured in his holiday bookings, spent £77,000 with a travel company on 13 holidays, paid out £11,920 to Royal Caribbean and spent £8,731.95 on cruise ships.
Hicks, of Cheadle, has been jailed for three years after admitting his crimes.
Hicks was a treasurer of the Life Keys charity, which was set up to help prisoners and ex-prisoners, Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard.
After hearing another charity benefited financially by accidentally submitting an inflated Gift Aid claim he decided to do the same.
Prosecutor Mark Monaghan told the court Life Keys received less than £3,000 a year in donations but the defendant applied to register for Gift Aid to enable the charity to claim back 25 per cent of any donation made by a taxpayer.
In total, the defendant submitted 32 claims to the HMRC for Gift Aid and was paid £270,860 which he then transferred to his own account.
Mr Monaghan said: ‘He inflated the amount of donations very substantially and he provided the names and addresses of people who existed but had not made substantial donations to Life Keys.
‘The total amount he claimed was £332,509 and £270,860 was paid.
‘The trustees became suspicious and the defendant sought to hide from them what was happening. He failed to attend meetings or provide documents they asked for.’
Hicks was removed from his position of treasurer and a signatory to the charity’s bank account in 2016.
But he forged the signature of one of the trustees in an attempt to switch the account the Gift Aid was paid so he could carry on with the fraud.
Mr Monaghan said: ‘The defendant no longer had control over the payments. He submitted two forms. He made efforts which would allow him to carry on a bit further.’
The defendant was interviewed by police in April 2018.
He admitted he put in false claims and accepted he received a large amount of money as a result. He had heard another charity had accidentally entered the wrong figures in a claim and was paid an inflated claim by the HMRC.
Hicks said he gave the money to good causes including £10,000 to a church and sent £8,000 in aid to Romania. He added he tried to help people in difficulty by taking them for meals and on holidays.
Hicks pleaded guilty to fraud, using a false instrument and using a false instrument with intent.
Antony Longworth, mitigating, said the defendant became frustrated at the low level of donations the charity was receiving.
Mr Longworth said: ‘He became aware another charity had received money from Gift Aid by error because of a nought in the wrong place. He fell into temptation and made a claim which was not legitimate in December 2014 to see if it worked. It was successful. He realised this was something he could do.
‘Although it is clear he was himself benefiting and taking part in lavish holidays he was also giving lavishly to others.
‘He was able to dispense with a lavish hand and was receiving thanks and acclaim for that. He wanted to do good in the world. What he was doing was defrauding the Inland Revenue so he could distribute the money himself.
‘He would lie steadfastly to the recipients of the monies he was doling out. He was clearly engaging in fraud in a large scale.’
Judge Paul Glenn said: ‘HMRC paid you nearly £271,000, which was promptly paid into your own account. To qualify for that level of Gift Aid you fraudulently submitted Life Keys had received £1.3 million in donations when in fact it was £2,700 to £2,800 a year.
‘You were very generous with money that was not yours to spend.
‘You continued to paint yourself as a latter day Robin Hood sort of figure.
‘The victims are taxpayers. A number of deserving cases were potentially deprived of public funding, no doubt, because of your actions.’