Mum and pre-school treasurer stole almost £90,000 meant for kids in ‘disgraceful’ fraud


The court heard the “disgraceful” fraud continued undetected for a number of years which bosses of the pre-school described as a “complete nightmare”, Hull Crown Court heard

Gemma Waterhouse
Gemma Waterhouse

A mum and pre-school treasurer stole £90,000 from a charity which was meant for young children in a “disgraceful” fraud.

Trustees and staff were left feeling “very angry, betrayed and deceived” by Gemma Waterhouse’s fraud which bosses of the pre-school described as a “complete nightmare”..

A court heard the actual loss after repayments was £28,139 but the fraud continued undetected for a number of years.

HullLive reports that mother-of-two Waterhouse hid the losses and forged the manager’s signature.

Pre-school bosses told Hull Crown Court it was a “terrible, damaging ordeal”

Waterhouse, 39, of Bewholme, East Yorkshire, admitted fraud by transferring money from a charity bank account between January 2012 and January 2019.

Waterhouse, 39, Bewholme, East Yorkshire, admitted fraud
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Hull Daily Mail / MEN Media)

She also admitted falsifying year-end financial reports and bank statements.

Giles Bridge, prosecuting, said that Waterhouse was on Leven Pre-school’s committee and worked as the voluntary treasurer.

A letter from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs was received in January 2019 showing a £16,235 debt over failure to make Pay As You Earn and staff National Insurance payments since April 2012.

It came as a surprise to manager Dawn Whiting as payslips showed that payments and deductions had been made.

Waterhouse covered up the losses and forged the manager’s signature in the fraud
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Hull Daily Mail / MEN Media)

A total of £89,743 had been paid into accounts belonging to Waterhouse or her husband’s business.

The prosecution accepted that the actual total adjusted loss after repayments was £28,139.

Waterhouse had changed addresses on correspondence from the pre-school to her home without the knowledge of the other trustees or staff.

She changed committee meeting minutes over the pre-school’s bank account to require only one signature.

Waterhouse also forged Mrs Whiting’s signature.

“False balances helped to prolong the offending before the offenses came to light,” said Mr Bridge.

Waterhouse did not bank all the cash that had been raised for the pre-school.

The manager saw Waterhouse at a garden center and the treasurer said: “It’s a complete mess.”

Waterhouse said that she had been struggling for years, did not know how to handle things, she did not know how to ask for help and that things had got worse and worse.

The fraud had been going on for longer than five years. She had joined the committee in September 2011.

Waterhouse said of the breach of trust: “I know and that makes me feel worse. I have to put it right. I want to try and put it right but I need time.

Hull Crown Court
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Hull Daily Mail / MEN Media)

“It’s all gone. There’s nothing left.”

Rachel Scott, mitigating, said that Waterhouse has no previous convictions.

She had two children, aged 12 and 11, and had previously worked making bespoke gifts to sell online but could no longer do this because of problems caused by the pandemic and other factors.

“She fully understands that this is an offense that offends the public trust and that it’s disgraceful,” said Miss Scott.

“It started with a little bit of borrowing here and there and got completely out of hand. It put people’s jobs at risk.

“It was not what she intended when she started this offending.”

Waterhouse’s husband had spent money without consulting her, including £10,000 for a pond in the back garden.

“She has gone and done this in order to keep the family finances afloat, which, of course, is absolutely no excuse,” said Miss Scott.

“She doesn’t want to deflect any sort of blame here.”

Waterhouse behaved in an “appalling” way after falling into a vicious circle.

“She will never be trusted again,” added Miss Scott. “She will never be in a position of responsibility again and that’s something that greatly upsets her.”

Recorder Alex Menary told Waterhouse that she had “fallen an awful long way” by falsifying the pre-school accounts to “make it look like everything was all right” but concealing the fact that she was stealing from it.

Waterhouse’s “disgraceful” fraud continued undiscovered over several years
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Hull Daily Mail / MEN Media)

“The staff who work there are volunteers and put in long hours,” he said.

“This was sophisticated in nature because it wasn’t just the case that you were putting your hand in the till on occasion.”

Waterhouse forged signatures to gain access to bank accounts over a significant period of time.

“It’s the grossest abuse of trust you can imagine,” said Recorder Menary.

The money raised was for children’s equipment that volunteers had worked long hours to raise.

“The whole point is that it was for children,” said Recorder Menary.

“It was a charity and not meant to be for profit.”

The fraud came to a “shuddering halt” when a letter arrived from HMRC.

“These offenses are so serious that only a prison sentence can be justified,” said Recorder Menary.

“There is a serious detrimental impact.”

Waterhouse was jailed for 18 months.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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