The disgraced treasurer of a children’s football league has been jailed for 20 months after pleading guilty to stealing £36,399 from the accounts.
Judge Pamela Badley, sitting at Preston Crown Court, told Michael Hooper he had breached his position of trust by stealing cash and forging cheques from the club’s accounts over a period of six years.
Father-of-three Hooper, 43, of Seven Stars Road, Leyland, was in dire financial difficulties, the court heard.
Prosecuting, Joseph Allman said Hooper had worked for the Mid Lancs Colts Junior League, for seven to 10 year olds, as a volunteer.
He said: “Each year certain members received an £80 honorarian payment.
“As treasurer he had access to the league accounts and was able to sign cheques as long as they were countersigned by another member.
“In January the league secretary became concerned because the honorarians had not been paid and asked the defendant to produce the accounts for the year. On January 24 he produced some but not all of the financial documents. At that stage he said he was too ill to get the remainder from his attic, where he stored them.
“On January 25 the secretary conferred an emergency meeting and a letter was sent to the defendant.
“On February 1 the defendant resigned citing ill health. The defendant’s sons delivered the rest of the paperwork but there was obviously a number of discrepancies between those and the accounts.”
The court heard Hooper was arrested and interviewed in April. He said he was being pursued by debt collectors. He accepted he had forged the countersigned signatures on some cheques.
Defending, Miss Julie Taylor said Hooper “succumbed to temptation”.
She told the court his family had hit severe financial difficulties after returning to the UK when he lost his job in America. He obtained employment at Leyland trucks but the financial situation became worse and he and his wife split up.
She said: “ When he took the position it was through a desire to assist, it was not a cynical taking of the position intending to steal. What he found himself doing was effectively robbing Peter to pay Paul. He was borrowing money from the League then when he received his salary he would pay it back, However matters escalated and got to the stage where he couldn’t afford to pay it back.
“It was not going on a luxury lifestyle. It was going into the family pot.”
Hooper’s estranged wife and eldest son were in the public gallery as he was sentenced.
The court heard he had no assets worth pursuing so no Proceeds of Crime proceedings will take place to reclaim the cash.