Ex-trustee admits £250,000 pension scheme fraud

Hope William-Smith reports

The former trustee of a charity for the disabled has pleaded guilty to fraud after transferring more than £250,000 from the organisation’s pension scheme.

Patrick McLarry of Bere Alston in Devon took the funds from the pension scheme of Yateley Industries for the Disabled where he was both chief executive and chairman.

At the time of committing the fraud – between March 2012 and February 2013 – McLarry was also the director of VerdePlanet Limited, the corporate trustee of the charity’s pension scheme.

The case was brought by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and is its first instance of prosecuting over money laundering allegations.

McLarry initially denied the charges at Winchester Crown Court on 28 May but will be sentenced on 13 December after admitting to the fraud at Salisbury Crown Court yesterday (11 November).

The court heard McLarry amended the scheme’s definitive deed, which meant the scheme was unable to pursue him for the £250,000 he went on to take.

In court, Judge Andrew Barrett said McLarry’s conduct was “a serious matter” with the only outcome suitable to be a “substantial prison sentence.”

McLarry used the funds to purchase houses in France and Hampshire for himself and his wife, as well as to pay off personal debt.

McLarry’s wife, Sandra, was the secretary of the charity board and previously faced four charges of money laundering – an offence under section 327 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment. TPR took the decision to not continue proceedings against her on the basis that it was not in the public interest.

The regulator convicted McLarry for failing to hand over bank statements at a trial in April 2017 which revealed he had used scheme funds for the property purchases.

TPR executive director of frontline regulation Nicola Parish said McLarry had “posed as a member of the community while secretly working to steal the pension savings of dozens of disabled workers for himself.”

She added: “He lied repeatedly to try to muddy the waters around him, but our investigators cut through his attempts at deception to uncover the truth.

“This prosecution shows that we will do everything in our power to take action against those criminals who raid pension pots for their own gain.”

The TPR will now seek a confiscation order to force McLarry to hand back the funds taken from the pension scheme.