South Shields charity chief goes on trial accused of £700,000 fraud over eight-year period

John Briers pictured outside of Newcastle Crown Court
John Briers pictured outside of Newcastle Crown Court

A trusted chief executive pocketed over £700,000 belonging to Age Concern during an eight-year fraud, jurors have heard.

John Briers, who at one time earned almost £6,000 per month, paid 60 of the organisation's cheques into his own bank account, awarded himself 12 unauthorised bonuses and 19 additional pension contributions, it is claimed.

The 57-year-old denies three offences of fraud between January 2007 and August 2015, when he was Chief Executive Officer at Age Concern South Tyneside, based at Beach Road, South Shields, and is being tried by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.

Jurors have heard Briers was suspended from his post when a financial manager noticed a supporting document for one of the payments appeared to be fraudulent and an investigation was launched.

Investigators found templates of blank invoices for firms the organisation had dealt with when Briers' office was searched.

Prosecutor Anthony Dunne told the court: "The defendant is charged with three offences of fraud by abuse of position.

"The position he held was that he was chief executive of a charity, Age Concern South Tyneside.

"The case against him is he dishonestly used that position to fraudulently pay to himself large amounts of Age Concern's money.

"He made most of those payments simply by writing out cheques to himself.

"He then covered his tracks by pretending that those fraudulent payments were either payments to companies who had supplied goods and services to Age Concern or bonus payments that were approved by the charity's board of trustees or special payments, also agreed by the board, or a sub-committee of the board.

"The defendant created false documents to explain those fraudulent payments.

"In the end, he was caught out because one of the documents he created contained obvious mistakes and the finance manager with the charity noticed.

"In total, he stole over £700,000 from the charity through these means."

The court heard the money was taken from the two limbs of the organisation, one being the charity, which he was Chief Executive of, and the other was the trading company, which he was Secretary of.

Prosecutors claim Briers pocketed £433,236 through fraudulent cheques which he claimed were for suppliers, that he paid himself £105,560 in bonuses, including a special, additional monthly salary of £5,756, on one occasion, and that he used £169,703 of the charity's cash to top-up his pension.

Mr Dunne said Briers used fake invoices and even fraudulent minutes of board meetings in a bid to cover his tracks.

Briers, of Woodstock Road, Gateshead, made no comment during police interview.

He later claimed payments were diverted to his account simply so he could pay suppliers in cash.

He denies all charges.

The trial continues.