Fife charity boss who stole £35,000 spared jail sentence

Elaine Fox
Elaine Fox

A mental health charity boss who stole £35,000 from the organisation she ran in a “bizarre” scam has been spared jail.

Elaine Fox was manager of the East Neuk Recovery Group Initiative – known as ENeRGI – for more than 15 years, providing support services to people with mental health and substance misuse problems.

Fox was a co-signatory on the charity’s bank account and was in charge of writing cheques to cover the payroll for their 10 staff.

But Fox would use a “bizarre process” to pay money into the charity’s bank account to cover wages.

ENeRGI’s finance officer noticed money missing from the charity’s accounts – but when she was challenged Fox claimed she was using her own money to cover the wages of staff. She later admitted she was “taking advances on her wages” and owed the charity £35,000.

Fox (51) of Beeches, Ladybank, pleaded guilty on indictment to embezzling £34,136 from ENeRGI between January 1, 2013 and July 8, 2017.

Fiscal depute Sue Ruta told Dundee Sheriff Court that Fox pleaded with the staff member not to inform the charity’s board and that she was going to take a £25,000 loan out to repay the bulk of the cash.

The fiscal depute explained the stubs on the charity’s chequebook said they were for training, travel, decoration and equipment, but the accused would then alter the cheques to have them paid to herself.

The accused also failed to pay Fife Council the full amount of rent they were due and there was £12,000 in arrears.

Defence solicitor Laura McGillvery said Fox had paid back £15,900.

Last week Sheriff Alastair Carmichael imposed a community payback order with two years supervision and 160 hours of unpaid work to be completed within nine months.

He also imposed a restriction of liberty order for four months confining Fox to her home address from 7pm til 7am every day on an electronic tag.

Finally, he ordered her to pay £18,236 compensation and fixed a confiscation hearing in January.

Solicitor advocate Kris Gilmartin said there was no structure in place for the charity’s financial arrangements and as it continued to grow problems began to emerge.

He said at some points Fox would find herself paying wages out of her own pocket.

He added: “Because of the financial difficulty, she would use her money to plug holes in the charity’s finances and charity finances to plug hers.

“She took advances on her wage and thought she could keep on top of it, but she could not.

“It started with no ill intent, and slid into this position.

“She will be struck off the nurses register, she is currently suspended.”