A confidence trickster who committed a £78,000 fraud on a Bradford-based debt counselling charity and its vulnerable clients has been warned to expect a prison sentence.
Simon Warner-Hodgkin lied about his academic and financial qualifications to obtain the post of team leader with Christians Against Poverty before plundering its bank accounts, Bradford Crown Court was told.
After falsely gaining the trust of staff at the charity and its customers, many in great need of financial advice, he dishonestly moved money around, £30,000 of which had not been returned.
Warner-Hodgkin, also known as Simon Hemmingfield, is on bail awaiting sentence on April 23 after pleading guilty to two offences of fraud.
He admitted that, between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2010, he abused his position of team leader with the charity by transferring money from numerous client accounts into his accounts.
Warner-Hodgkin also pleaded guilty to making a false representation that he had a BA Honours degree in Bible Studies and Church Leadership and a Masters degree in Theology and that he was qualified to give mortgage advice, on December 16, 2007.
Wearing a red hooded top and green trousers, he was on the court list under the name Hemmingfield but he told the court clerk he was now known as Warner-Hodgkin.
His case was adjourned for the preparation of a report from the probation service.
Warner-Hodgkin, now of Saltdene Vale, Saltdene, Brighton, had his bail renewed by Judge Colin Burn.
The judge told him: “It is very likely that you will go to prison and you must be prepared for that.”
Prosecutor Bashir Ahmed said Warner-Hodgkiin was creaming off the charity’s funds and some of its clients had their accounts defrauded.
He had breached the trust of a charity that helped people manage their debts and deal with their financial problems.
After the court hearing, Matt Barlow, chief executive of Christians Against Poverty, said: “Thankfully, it is not very often that any charity has to deal with someone like Simon who set out from the start to deceive everyone for his own gain.
“We are a close-knit charity so that was a shock, and very sad for everyone.
“We are always looking to improve as an organisation, so when this happened almost two years ago we reviewed our procedures and made our security even tighter than it had been previously.
“It is to the great credit of our workforce who, on learning about Simon’s actions, quickly resolved to remain focussed on the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in the UK – our clients – who rely on us to give them the most thorough, and most caring, free debt counselling.”
Christians Against Poverty has 21 church-based centres across Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.
It offers a lifeline to more than 1,000 clients in financial crisis each year.