A shocking news article has arisen about how a woman stole money from a primary school’s PTA. Discover the full story here with Payday Loans Net.

In this article you’ll read:

  • The background to the theft
  • Why this woman stole money from the PTA
  • The judge’s verdict in Ms Johnson’s case
  • If the payday lender was the scapegoat
  • Whether embezzlement is a victimless crime
  • Conclusion

In July 2018 a mother-of-two pleaded guilty to theft from her children’s PTA. She received a sentence of 12 months of community service. But what made her do it? We explain the circumstances behind Ms Ellen Johnson’s crime. We also give information about how much she stole and details of the judge’s ruling. We conclude the article by questioning Ms Johnson’s reason for her thefts and whether embezzlement really is a victimless crime. Finally, we conclude by explaining how PTAs can protect themselves.

Woman Stole Money from Primary School – How it Happened

In 2015 Ms Johnson became the chairperson of the PTA of the 500-pupil Lakeside Primary School, which is located in Cardiff. Between September 2015 and October 2016 she stole a total of £4,150.48 in a series of 8 thefts. These thefts varied in size and included:

  • £108.85 – the proceeds of a cake sale organised by the children (September 2015)
  • £399.17 – the proceeds from a fund-raising school disco (October 2015)
  • Withdrew £400 from the PTA bank account as a ‘float’ at another fundraiser (December 2015)
  • Withdrew £2,000 from the PTA bank account

These thefts and how this woman stole money weren’t discovered until someone else took over as the school PTA chairperson. They realised that money hadn’t been deposited into the account or had been withdrawn and was unaccounted for.

When Ms Johnson was first arrested in 2017, she at first proclaimed her innocence and suggested that someone else was to blame. She later admitted to having ‘mislaid small amounts’. She finally admitted her guilt just before the start of her trial.

Why did she Steal from the PTA?

At the time of the thefts, Ms Johnson was unemployed, and her husband (they have since separated) had recently changed jobs. As a result, they were struggling financially, and she had taken out payday loans to get by. She said that she had been tempted to take the money to pay off the mounting debts from these payday loans from a direct lender for bad credit. She had always intended to repay the money she’d taken but had been unable to do so.

The Judge’s Verdict in Ms Johnson’s Case

Judge Eleri Rees said that she appreciated that the accused had been in difficult financial circumstances and had taken into account the fact that Ms Johnson had no previous convictions. However, she had caused a lot of trouble and heartache, had abused a position of trust, and her actions had been persistent (rather than a one-off impulsive act).

For all these reasons, the Judge ordered that Ms Johnson serve a 12-month community order, during which she should do 180 hours of unpaid work. She also ordered that Ms Johnson (who is now working) had 3 months to replace the money she had stolen and also had to pay £1,200 in costs for the prosecution and an £85 victim surcharge.

Payday Lender as a Scapegoat?

Ms Johnson said that her father would reimburse the school PTA and now that she had a job. She would pay him back. This of course naturally raises the question of why she didn’t ask to borrow money from her dad in the first place when she saw her family was suffering from financial difficulties.

The other issue arising from Ms Johnson’s testimony was the blaming of payday UK loans for her crime. The thefts took place from Sept 2015-Oct 2016 after the FCA had already taken over the regulation of the industry. If her crime had been a one-off action and it had happened in 2012-13, it might have been easier to be more sympathetic to her plight. However, there were plenty of avenues open to her in 2016, and she didn’t have to resort to theft. Or is the payday lender the most convenient scapegoat?

Is Embezzlement from a PTA a Victimless Crime?

PTAs across the whole of the UK do a great deal of good as they enable schools to finance learning activities or to buy equipment which the budget of the local education authority doesn’t cover. However, these voluntary organisations can only continue to do their work if they are trusted by parents at the school and the wider local community.

Episodes like the one involving Ms Johnson are, unfortunately, not isolated, and do a lot of damage to all PTAs in the UK as some cynics refuse to help or contribute as a result of such stories. This was made clear from the court testimony of Sian Lewis, who is the current Chairperson of Lakeside’s PTA. She said that Ms Johnson’s actions had had a severe impact on confidence in the school’s PTA. She found the lack of trust and the questioning of the members’ personal integrity distressing. The PTA had even faced problems in getting help from the local community as some businesses now are refusing to sponsor them.

Let’s also not forget the children. It seems so much worse than some of the stolen money came from fund-raising events that the children had organised. It isn’t just a question of cold cash, but a question of how the young children will feel and how it’s a betrayal of their trust too.

Why a Woman Stole Money – Conclusion

Schools rely on parent volunteers to help with extracurricular activities and fundraisers, so it’s a pity that a woman stole money, as it damages the reputation of all PTAs. To prevent it from happening again, schools should take the matter into their own hands. They should consult the guide ‘Internal Financial Controls for Charities’, published by the Charity Commission because it has a lot of valuable advice about protecting the PTA’s money. These guidelines include dual signatures to authorise payments and withdrawals and never to sign blank cheques. Only in this way can other PTAs prevent it happening to them.

Tracy Walter
As a busy mother of 3, Tracy knows all about household finances. After completing her BA English Language and Literature at the University of Hertfordshire, she found an entry level job as an insurance agent and worked her way up. After the birth of her second child she left the insurance sector to work from home as a freelance writer. Tracy’s varied background in personal finance, writing and homemaking provide the perfect foundation for writing for the Payday Loan Net blog. Tracy loves nature, and weekends often find her with her kids at one of the many parks in the Barking area.

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