Ex-cop jailed for £15k theft from Catholic church

| August 13, 2009

A FORMER policeman who stole more than £15,000 from the Roman Catholic Church was caught after he used church funds to buy himself a grand piano.

Frank Monti committed the fraud when he was financial secretary of the Diocese of Menevia at its offices in Swansea.

The 59-year-old was yesterday jailed for 18 months after Swansea Crown Court heard how he had abused his position to line his own pocket.

Monti, who received a number of commendations when he was an officer with the Metropolitan Police, pleaded guilty to seven charges of theft and one of obtaining by deception.

Jim Davis, prosecuting, said the Diocese of Menevia – covering south west and mid Wales – was run from offices in Convent Street in Swansea’s Greenhill area.

Monti was appointed its financial secretary in 2001, three years after retiring as a police officer for medical reasons.

Later he also became estates manager, with responsibility for organising repairs to churches, presbyteries and parish halls.

The positions gave him "effective control" of a diocesan bank account, the court heard, and he was able to spend money on behalf of trustees without first having to seek or obtain approval for this.

But during 2005 and 2006 the defendant stole £15,452 by forging cheques, invoices and other documents.

Mr Davis said the alarm was raised when an accountant became suspicious about a £6,000 transaction – and an investigation revealed that Monti had helped himself to the money to buy himself a Bechstein grand piano from a firm in Leeds.

It then emerged that Monti had also used a diocesan cheque book to obtain cash payments for himself.

He had concealed these thefts by preparing bogus invoices to suggest maintenance work had been carried out at buildings owned by the diocese.

Mr Davis said Monti also helped himself to £1,389 from the estate of a parishioner who had died in 2003. The woman in question had requested that the money be donated to the diocese, but in error her solicitor made the cheque payable to Monti – and the defendant paid it into his own account.

When arrested, Monti protested his innocence, the court heard. He sought to explain matters by blaming "honest mistakes and understanding".

He maintained this stance until he entered eight pleas of guilty when a jury was about to be sworn in to try him last month.

Tom Crowther, in mitigation, said Monti, of Basingstoke, had had a distinguished career with the police, and one of the commendations he had received was for his role in the arrest of a suspected IRA bomber in 1973.

He said his client had committed the fraud after "foolishness" had caused him to get into tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of debt. And he emphasised that Monti had paid back "every penny" of the £15,452 to the diocese.

Sentencing, Judge Huw Davies QC said that only an immediate prison sentence was appropriate for such a grave breach of trust.

Monti had committed a "sustained and deliberate" fraud and had sought to cover his tracks with bogus invoices.

"You had become confident in your position, confident you would never be discovered – but you were wrong," the judge told Monti.



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Category: Church Security

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