Former head of charity for the disabled jailed for defrauding £256K from pension fund

The former head of a charity for the disabled has been jailed for five years for defrauding the charity’s pension fund of £256,000 to buy a holiday home in France and pay off debts.

Patrick McLarry (pictured), who was awarded an MBE for his work for charity, pleaded guilty to transferring the money from the pension fund of Yateley Industries for the Disabled.

Winchester Crown Court was told that the 71-year-old bought a house and a warehouse in south-west France worth £200,000 with the stolen funds, paid off money he owed for the purchase of a pub lease in Portsmouth as well as paid for the deposit on a house in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire.

The court has previously heard that McLarry pleaded guilty after gaining confirmation that four charges of money-laundering would be dropped against his 60-year-old wife, Sandra McLarry, who was secretary of the charity.

Sentencing McLarry, from Bere Alston in Devon, Judge Andrew Barnett described the fraud as “an appalling dishonesty and breach of trust”.

He said: “You quite deliberately and in a very calculating way milked the fund of a considerable amount of money which was spent for your own needs and your wife’s, I imagine.”

Linda Matthews, CEO of the charity, said in a statement read to court that the pension scheme faced “significant difficulties” because of the stolen funds and had led to “immense stress and anxiety” for the charity’s staff and users.

She added: “The charity was in such a critical state it was days away from potential closure.”

Alex Stein, prosecuting, explained that McLarry carried out the fraud by setting up a new company to manage the pension fund, of which he was one of only two directors and was in the habit of “rubber-stamping” decisions.

He also set up a third company which used the cover of trading in antiques to transfer the stolen money to France in order to buy the two properties abroad before creating a fictional loss to explain the loss of funds.

He said outside court: “This was a complex, sophisticated fraud undertaken over a number of years against vulnerable victims.

“Mr McLarry held himself out as a pillar of the community, a legitimate businessman and a man with an MBE.

“It took a persistent and tenacious investigation to uncover one of the most substantial pension frauds prosecuted to date.”

Nicola Parish, of The Pension Regulator (TPR) which brought the prosecution, said: “McLarry tried every trick in the book to hide his actions and squander the pension pots of those he was responsible for but we were able to uncover the truth and bring him to justice.

“We will now work to seize assets from McLarry so that as much of the money as possible is returned to its rightful owners who will rightly rely on it to deliver their pensions in retirement.”

McLarry was previously convicted of failing to disclose his bank statements to TPR investigators and given a fine which was paid for by the charity.

Hampshire-based Yateley Industries for the Disabled is a charity that provides accommodation, training and work for people with disabilities.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Ben Mitchell / PA Wire.

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