Grant Thornton manager jailed for embezzling £726,000 of charity trust cash

Glasgow Sheriff Court

An assistant manager who worked in the trust department of accountancy firm Grant Thornton has been jailed for 40 months for embezzling £726,000 from trusts that were set up to help charities.

Glasgow Sheriff Court had previously heard how mother of three, Susan McMahon, 34, from Motherwell, exploited her position to falsified documents so her superiors would authorise cheques that she led them to believe had been authorised by trustees.

Sheriff Alan Miller deferred sentence on McMahon last month and remanded her in custody after she pleaded guilty to embezzling £726,765 between May 2006 and May 2013.

Instead of money going to various beneficiaries including Save the Children, McMahon transferred the stolen money into accounts held by her and her husband.

The court heard McMahon’s husband had no knowledge of his wife’s crimes.

She was caught in April 2013 when one of the partners in Grant Thornton authorised a cheque for £15,000 to be paid to the Sports University Scotland, an Aberdeen charity.

He became suspicious and carried out checks on the Margaret Murdoch Trust, which McMahon claimed had authorised the payment, and discovered no such payment had been approved.

The court was told that out of the 12 to 15 trusts administered by McMahon, six had funds belonging to them fraudulently removed and paid out to her or her husband’s accounts.

Procurator fiscal depute Pauline Henderson said: “The accused exploited her position as the only member of staff within the trust’s department and the trust placed in her by her employers.”

The court heard no money has been repaid.

Defence counsel Tony Graham told the court that there is nothing which points to large sums of money or assets.

He said: “This accused, despite an embezzlement in excess of £700,000 has nothing to show for her crime.

“The money taken has been spent on campaigns of frivolous shopping, often via the anonymity of the interweb (correct).

“The proceeds of which she would often give to charity.”

The court was told she did this to mask her spending from her husband, including designer clothes, accessories and expensive cosmetics.

Sheriff Alan Miller jailed McMahon for 40 months, reduced from five years, noting the embezzlement had taken place while in a position of trust and that the firm and insurers have suffered a significant loss.

Speaking at the time of McMahon’s trial last month, a spokesman for Grant Thornton said: “Grant Thornton, together with its insurers, is in the course of addressing compensation arrangements with the affected trusts in respect of the losses they have been shown to have incurred by reason of Mrs McMahon’s criminal activity.

“Whilst not wishing to be anything other than helpful, you will appreciate that Grant Thornton is constrained by obligations of confidence from disclosing any further details in relation to such arrangements.”

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