Man admits to defrauding Hastings and St Leonards groups out of thousands

File image.
File image.

A former treasurer of several community organisations in Hastings and St Leonards has pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.

Paul Roger Smith, 74, of Addington Grove, Lewisham, London, initially entered no pleas to the charges of fraud by abuse of position when he appeared before Hastings magistrates on April 10.

But last Wednesday (May 8), Smith admitted all four counts when he appeared at Hove Trial Centre, a spokesman for the CPS said.

Between October 9, 2013 and December 25, 2016 Smith, while treasurer of Hastings and St Leonards Museum Association, abused his position as treasurer by committing fraud, intending to keep £12,276.62 for himself.

Smith, while treasurer of the Castle Ward Forum, committed the same offence between March 31, 2014 and April 1, 2017, intending to keep £7,316.49 for himself.

He also committed fraud by abusing his position as treasurer for Hastings and Rye Liberal Democrat Association, intending to keep £4,250.16 for himself between February 15, 2013 and March 5, 2017.

Smith abused his position as treasurer of St Leonards Methodist Church between October 2, 2014 and February 10, 2017 by committing fraud and intending to keep £12,408.15 for himself.

Judy Rogers, secretary of Castle Ward Forum, said: “The forum is disappointed with the actions taken by the former treasurer Paul Smith.

“The monies taken from the forum were intended to be used during 2018/19 for the benefit of the community in Castle Ward via a small grants scheme for community groups to access.

“By putting an upper limit of £500 we had hoped to give around 15 grants to groups which in turn could have benefitted around 3,000 plus local people, many living with poverty. The funds cannot be replaced and it is sad when someone like Paul Smith in a position of trust abuses that position.”

A spokesman for Hastings & Rye Liberal Democrats said: “As one of the organisations which have suffered financial loss, we express shock and deep disappointment over Paul Smith’s actions. He is no longer a member of the Liberal Democrats and his betrayal of his position of trust is more than upsetting.”

Current treasurer Eve Montgomery said: “We have instituted new financial systems which ensure greater transparency and accountability to prevent any possible future abuses and have assisted the police to whom we are indebted for their professionalism.”

Smith must appear for sentencing at the crown court on Tuesday, May 28, the CPS said.