The former head of a charity providing work for people with disabilities has been jailed for five years for stealing £256,000 from its pension fund.
Patrick McLarry, 71, who had been appointed an MBE for his charity work, took the money from Yateley Industries in Hampshire.
McLarry, from Bere Alston, Devon, used it to buy a holiday home in France and pay off debts.
He admitted charge of fraud at a previous hearing.
A registered charity, Yateley Industries offers jobs to people with disabilities working in packing and assembling goods for local businesses.
In a statement read to Winchester Crown Court, the charity’s chief executive Linda Matthews said it had been “days away from potential closure” because of the stolen funds, which had led to “immense stress and anxiety” for the charity’s staff and users.
McLarry used £256,000 of pension money towards buying a flat in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, as well as a home and a small warehouse in the south of France, and repaying a debt related to the purchase of a pub lease in Portsmouth.
Alex Stein, prosecuting, explained that he carried out the fraud by setting up a new company to manage the pension fund, of which he was one of only two directors and was in the habit of “rubber-stamping” decisions.
He also set up a third company which used the cover of trading in antiques to transfer the stolen money to France.
Passing sentence, Judge Andrew Barnett described the fraud as “an appalling dishonesty and breach of trust”.
Prosecutors previously offered no evidence against Mrs McLarry, 59, who was secretary of the charity’s board, and faced four charges of money-laundering. The judge entered not guilty verdicts at an earlier hearing.