June 21, 2009

Thieving church treasurer spared jail

by Sara Levy

A church treasurer who stole nearly £12,000 from parish funds in a bid to “buy back” the love of her cheating husband has been spared a jail sentence.

Deborah Stranger, 44, was given blank cheques by the vicar of Christ Church in Gateshead to pay church bills.

However, instead of paying the bills, she wrote out the cheques to herself to pay off debts accrued in an attempt to woo back her straying lover.

After forgiving her husband, she promised to buy him whatever he asked for, including a £15,000 car, which she secured against their home, magistrates heard at Newcastle Crown Court.

When she was unable to repay the loan on the car, she stole money from her church to buy herself time against her house being repossessed.

Over a period of 15 months, the cheques she wrote out to herself totalled £11,845.

Stranger’s lawyer, James Atkin, said: “It was a pretty crude enterprise and it was absolutely inevitable that she would be discovered.”

He added that she had lost her job as a secretary because of the court case, and that she had apologised to her church and been forgiven.

Stranger admitted fraud and was awarded a 12-month community order.

Judge Michael Cartledge, who sentenced Stranger, said: “I think the disgrace of being here in court is a major punishment.”

A hearing in which the church will try to recover its money will be held later.

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