Church treasurer stole £70,000

A church treasurer betrayed the trust of two Norfolk churches over the course of 20 years by stealing £70,000 from them to fund his addiction to gambling and his love of stamp collecting.

A church treasurer betrayed the trust of two Norfolk churches over the course of 20 years by stealing £70,000 from them to fund his addiction to gambling and his love of stamp collecting.

Derek Klein, who siphoned the money from Bacton and Ridlington parochial church councils, was sent to jail for 16 months and warned he may have certain assets seized at a future hearing.

Norwich Crown Court heard that the stolen cash was not used to live a high life - Klein and his wife Rosemary lived by modest means. The money was used instead to feed an internet addiction to betting which led to huge losses. Klein, 53, also spent £100,000 on a stamp business dealing in first day covers, but was unable to meet the repayments and still owes £40,000.

The money stolen by qualified accountant Klein had been raised by the parish through various events, such as fetes, and monies from supporters and organisations, including grants and covenants.

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He took £57,000 from Bacton parochial church council between January 1, 1984 and January 1, 2007; and £13,000 from Ridlington parochial church council between January 1, 1993, and January 1, 2007.

One villager said that when the thefts were revealed they were a “very great shock” to the tiny community of Ridlington, where Klein still lives, and the fact he had been sent to jail would be welcomed, at least by some villagers.

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Klein managed to hide his theft for years through a complicated web of lies, but the police finally caught up with him after suspicions were raised through the local vicar, Rev Richard Hines.

Klein attempted to cover up his actions by claiming the money was in a high interest account in Jersey, which he said he had opened after being given permission to invest the council's money as he saw fit.

But there was no Jersey account, the court heard, and the extent of Klein's betting losses started to become clear, with evidence of him laying bets with two companies over the years in excess of £350,000.

During his internet gambling, one of the online nicknames Klein used was The Bishop.

Recorder Stuart Bridge said Klein had “sole responsibility” for the day to day management of the council accounts and was trusted by his fellow councillors.

The recorder added that parochial church councils, because of their innate trusting nature, might be considered “one of the friendliest environments” from which to steal.

“You lied to cover your tracks. Your problem is clear, an addiction to gambling which you found extremely difficult to control.”

David Wilson, defending, said Klein was of previous good character, had previously been well regarded in his community and his actions had brought “a great deal of shame” on himself and his wife.

“The money was not being spent on holidays and expensive vehicles. It has been gambled and frittered away,” said Mr Wilson.

“He has asked me to say 'sorry', he has let a great number of people down.”

Mr Wilson said since his last court appearance in July, Klein had managed to raise £15,000 to pay back the churches and he intended to pay back the entire £70,000.

After the case, fellow stamp collector Mark Sargent, who operates a well known stamp trading business based in Essex, said Klein was obsessed with stamp collecting.

“What Derek Klein has is an illness, a compulsive disorder,” said Mr Sargent.

“He is a compulsive buyer, he can't stop himself.

“I know people who have got divorced, lost their house, but they can't give up their precious stamp collection.”

And a Ridlington villager, who asked not to be named, said: “There was outright disgust at the thefts and he annoyed people further because he didn't appear to care less.

“He was blasé, full of himself and these court proceedings up until before the sentencing didn't seem to have phased him.

“I am quite shocked he has been sent to jail, but there will be people in the village who will welcome it.”

The court was also told that Klein will face possible seizure of assets when he returns to face confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act in December.

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