A Church of England official who “took more flights than Alan Whicker” spent the proceeds of a £5.2 million fraud on Burberry, Ted Baker and online fruit machines, a court heard.
Martin Sargeant, 53, was head of operations for the Diocese of London, which controls churches and their coffers in the capital.
He requested cash for “dysfunctional churches” and the money went straight into his pocket. Sargeant pocketed just over £5.2 million and the cash was “lavished on his lifestyle”, prosecutor Joey Kwong told Southwark Crown Court.
He bought seven properties, three of them in Scotland worth £1 million “including a riverside log cabin which can be rented out as a business,” said the prosecutor.
‘Alan Whicker would not have clocked up as many flights’
Mr Kwong said a statement from an American Express bank account showed Sarjeant spent £2,700 at fashion store Ted Baker in February 2012.
“In January 2013, £1,616 spent at Burberry and £4,000 spent on hotels in the same month … and in the three months between May and July 2013 he spent £30,000 at the Soho Hotel in London,” Mr Kwong said.
Sargeant was a BA frequent flyer who flew over 180 times with the airline between 2010 and 2019, with flights to New York and other such destinations, the court heard.
At a previous hearing, Malachy Packenham, prosecuting, referenced the late Alan Whicker, who presented the popular travel documentary series Whicker’s World on TV from 1958 to 1994, when he said: “Alan Whicker would not have clocked up as many flights as this defendant did.”
The Diocese of London have not been able to maintain their buildings and some have been closed to the public, according to an impact statement read to the court.
Sargeant had ‘long-standing gambling addiction’
Mark Ruffell, defending, said Sargeant has a “long-standing gambling addiction”. He told the court: “This wasn’t a fraud from the start, It was a fraud that came about because he had influence with substantial amounts of money.
“He explained at the start of that interview that he had a gambling addiction and at some points was losing £20,000 a day from online fruit machines”.
Mr Ruffell said Sargeant’s gambling addiction began when he was just 15 and would bunk off school to place bets.
Mr Ruffell told the court that Sargeant “created a fantasy life to hide lies” and that he is “sorry for everything”.
Sargeant, of Maughan Street, Dudley, West Midlands, admitted one count of fraud by abuse of position and was jailed for five years.
Judge Michael Grieve, KC, told him: “You admitted that as you did this you knew the church was close to bankruptcy.
“This was a sophisticated fraud carried out systematically for a period 11 years resulting to a massive loss to the churches of London which they could ill afford.”