A fraudster whose ‘despicable’ actions left two community groups nearly £30,000 out of pocket avoided being sent to prison - because of the impact the sentence would have on her children.
Gemma Beeny (35) was the financial director at Stanground Community Spaces (now Thistle Community Centre) and the Peterborough Gymnastics Academy when she transferred thousands from their accounts to her own to fund her gambling addiction.
The gymnastics group works with youngsters aged four to 16, including disabled children, while the community centre runs sessions for all members of the community - from toddlers to pensioners.
Beeny took £9,800 from the community centre and £17,252 from the gymnastics group - leaving both groups in significant financial trouble with further action from Companies House meaning the community centre could not even afford to replace light bulbs.
Yesterday (Wednesday) Beeny, of Croyland Road, Peterborough, stood sobbing in the dock as Judge Matthew Lowe passed a two year prison sentence, which was suspended for two years.
Judge Lowe said: “Your behaviour was despicable.”
He added: “I am just persuaded to suspend that sentence - mainly because of your children.
“I am mindful of the impact sending you to prison for 12 months would have on them.”
The court was told Beeny had taken action to address issues with gambling, depression and anxiety.
Speaking outside court Lindsay McGinlay, from the Thistle Community Centre, said Beeny had been one of her best friends in the past - but the fraud had left the centre with large debts - to the point they could no longer afford to even replace the light bulbs.
However, Lindsay said she and the other members of the team were determined to make the centre a success.
She said; “She would deal with the financial matters.
“My father was critically ill in hospital and I had no money on me.
“I needed to borrow some money to get home from Norwich, where he was in hospital, and I phoned her to see if I could.
“She said it was fine - but when I put the card in there was only 42p left.”
The full scale of Beeny’s fraud was then revealed.
Peterborough Gymnastics Academy said losing the money meant they were unable to buy crucial equipment.
Lindsay said: “At the moment we still have to chose between buying light bulbs and paying off our debts.
“We could have just closed up - but we did not want her to win. We might never recover financially, but we now have the freedom to do what we want, and we have a team who really want to make it work.”
Along with the suspended jail term, Beeny - who pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by abuse of position at a previous hearing - was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and a 25 day rehabilitation activity requirement.
Judge Lowe adjourned the case until September, when any financial orders will be made.
Anyone who wishes to help the Thistle centre should email firstname.lastname@example.org