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Convicted thief given 'second chance' by the CofE stole £5.2M

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    An official who defrauded the Church of England out of £5.2 million to spend on his lavish lifestyle travelling the world has been jailed for five years.<br>Southwark Crown Court heard ex-prisoner Martin Sargeant, 53, was given a ‘second chance’ after stealing from previous employers in the 1990s, landing an £86,000-a-year job with the Archdeaconry of .<br>Prosecutor Joey Kwong said as head of operations Sargeant was ‘handsomely remunerated’ for his work but ‘defrauded the church in a persistent, sophisticated and frankly brazen manner’ over 11 years between 2009 and 2019.<br>Sargeant, who was clerk of the City Church grants committee charitable trust, was responsible for 33 city churches, some which were ‘dysfunctional’ and had no vicar.<br> Martin Sargeant, 52, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court where he was charged with fraud and money laundering of approximately £5.2million<br> RELATED ARTICLES

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    He made false applications for grants for maintenance or improvements and used funds received from large City developments near to churches to defraud a total of more than £5.2 million.<br>The court heard that as a result of the fraud, many of the City churches have not been able to maintain their buildings and some have closed their doors to the public.<br>’It is clear that the funds were lavished on his lifestyle,’ said Mr Kwong.

    ‘By the end of the fraud he had assets of more than £450,000 across personal bank accounts as well as having three properties in Scotland worth approximately £1 million.<br>’He lavished money on multiple trips abroad and there was lavish spending in terms of his lifestyle.'<br>The court heard Sargeant booked a total of 158 flights with British Airways over the period of the fraud, visiting destinations including New York, Miami, the Maldives, Venice, Barcelona and Rome.<br>His love of foreign travel prompted a previous comparison in court to the late globetrotting broadcaster Alan Whicker.<br>Sargeant’s properties included six riverside log cabins, which he rented out as a business, while he made more than £600,000 of investments and spent over £1 million on credit cards.<br> Sargeant was an operations manager for the Church of England Diocese of London for more than a decade.

    He is believed to have flown more than 180 times with British Airways, prompting the comparison to the late globetrotting broadcaster Alan Whicker<br>He blew thousands of pounds at clothes from fashion brands Ted Baker and Burberry and over three months in 2013 spent more than £30,000 at five-star Soho Hotel.<br>Mr Kwong said that ‘of note’ was that over the 11 years he spent just £1,500 on the church and that although prosecutors accepted Sargeant had a gambling problem it was ‘not the main driver in the offending – it’s greed.'<br>Sargeant was jailed for five years on Monday, having previously pleaded guilty to a count of fraud by abuse of position between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2019.<br>He denied a further count of money laundering, which was left to lie on file.<br>Judge Michael Grieve KC said: ‘This was a sophisticated fraud carried out systematically over a period of 11 years resulting in a massive loss to the churches of the City of London, which they could ill afford.'<br>Sargeant, who grew up in Bournemouth, was handed a community order in 1992 for theft by employee and was jailed for 21 months on 1995 for offences including 19 counts of theft.<br>The court heard the convictions related to his previous employers, including a shoe shop and a bar, which he claimed to have disclosed to the CoE before he was employed – an assertion the church has neither confirmed nor denied.<br>He became head of operations in 2007 as a contractor with the Archdeaconry of London, initially earning £56,000 and rising to around £86,000 before his retirement in 2019 – a total salary of £750,000 over the period of the fraud.<br>Sargeant’s barrister Mark Ruffell said his client wanted ‘those who have suffered because of him to know he is genuinely sorry and he accepts 100% what he has done’.<br>’Underlying all that has gone on is his gambling addiction.'<br>

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