K9 CRUSADERS

/ 4 January 2019

Charity fraud can have catastrophic affects not only on the intended beneficiaries of a charity, but also on the dedicated people who devote their lives to good work. This is something Sue Smith, knows only too well. Sue and her husband, Peter, set up K9 Crusaders in 2002. A shared passion for dogs inspired the couple’s mission to rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome needy dogs. With capacity for up to fifty canines, the Truro-based charity also provides long-term care for dogs who are unable to be rehomed. Over the years K9 Crusaders has cared for more than 3,000 animals.

Tragically, Peter became very ill with cancer and dementia in 2007. Besides running K9 Crusaders, Sue cared for her husband full-time. Fragile and exhausted, Sue was befriended by a lady called Katrina Jones on dogs’ forums. Jones said she had been volunteering for other dog charities and offered to help Sue with her workload. Unbeknownst to Sue, Jones was a wanted woman; in 2004 she’d appeared on Crimewatch after swindling three businessmen out of £394,000 and had then fled to Australia. Five years later, she returned to the UK with a new identity. Jones convinced Sue that she was an accountant and insolvency practitioner, ensconced herself as a financial expert and assumed the role of K9 Crusaders treasurer at K9 Crusaders, gaining control of the charity’s finances.

In December 2010, Peter passed away, with Sue nursing him until the very end. Sue battled to keep going, running the charity with undiminished care for the dogs. Jones saw her opportunity to take advantage of a grieving Sue, installing her partner as a trustee of K9 Crusaders and proceeding to slowly siphon tens of thousands of pounds from the charity. Sue became suspicious of Jones in 2014, and her doubts were confirmed when bailiffs demanded payments for an unpaid bill. Sue realised that that Jones had purchased personal items using the charity’s account and called the police.

By the summer, criminal investigations discovered that Jones had diverted funds from the sale of Sue’s house and the charity, gambling the money away. Police traced £80k stolen from K9 Crusaders, although Sue believes the figure is actually £212k. In 2015, Jones pleaded guilty to more than 29 offences relating to over £500k and was jailed for six years. Jones, now 59, has since been released after serving half her sentence. She has not repaid any of the stolen money from K9 Crusaders. Whilst Sue has kept the charity going, it has been a daily struggle, and a hand to mouth existence. Now that Jones is a free woman, Sue is worried that she could re-offend and so wants to raise awareness to stop this from happening, warning others of the dangers of unscrupulous fraudsters.

Sue joined Ruth in the studio where she spoke about her experience, joined by her beloved dog Tara. Sue explained how she felt that Katrina had left her with almost nothing, and that the charity was struggling to survive. Ruth then introduced her to Faye Tozer, of Steps and Strictly fame, who had heard about Sue’s story. Faye explained how Sue’s story had touched her, having rescued her own dog recently. She also surprised Sue by saying that Homebase and Robert Dyas had heard about all the brilliant work that Sue does, and both wanted to donate her a shed each. Ruth then furthered the surprise, telling Sue that Fish4Dogs, Nutriment, IAMS and Webbox were donating large quantities of dog food to help K9 Crusaders. IAMs have also committed to keep working with Sue, through their I Am Home Feeding Programme.

K9 Crusaders is a Registered Charity no: 1138278. If you would like to donate, fundraise or adopt a dog from K9 Crusaders, please visit their website at http://www.caninecrusaders.org.uk

Advice from the Charity Commission

Our top tips for protecting against fraud are:

  • Ensure you have robust internal financial controls in place. This should include appropriate employment checks and segregation of duties so that no one individual has unchecked control of a charity’s finances. Template policy documents that promote best practice are available to download on GOV.UK.
  • Promote a strong counter fraud culture from the top of your organisation, regardless of the charity’s size, type or income. Openness and transparency are the best ways to empower individuals within charities to come forward and challenge any concerns about fraud.
  • When things do go wrong, report this as soon as you become aware to the Police and the Charity Commission

 

We also have a couple of infographics which set out:

Both are available to download via the links above, with Charity Commission attribution included.

We regularly publish regulatory alerts to ensure trustees are alive to the risks of fraud as well as other risks facing their charities: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/regulatory-alerts-charity-commission

Please visit Protect Your Charity From Fraud webpage, which has a series of guides and checklists covering a host of fraud risks in charities. We also produced 7 short checklists and webinars on different types of fraud types for our National Charity Fraud Awareness Week 2018 campaign, which can be accessed at: www.fraudadvisorypanel.org/charity-fraud/planned-activities/