A Londoner who plundered over £200,000 (US$272,000) from a medical charity to feed his online gambling habit was handed a three-year prison sentence by Snaresbrook Crown Court this week.
Manjinder Virdi pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position after siphoning the money from his employer, the British Society of Echocardiography (BSE), over a period of 20 months from September 2017.
The Evening Standard reports Virdi joined the East London-based non-profit in 2015 as a financial administrator and was later promoted to finance officer. This gave him access to the charity’s bank and PayPal accounts.
According to court documents, the 37-year-old blew most of the stolen money at various unnamed online gambling sites. He has been assessed as suffering from gambling disorder and depression.
The court heard the scheme began to unravel in May 2019 when the bank contacted one of Virdi’s colleagues by email regarding possible fraud on the charity’s account. The email was forwarded to Virdi, who, as finance officer, was asked to follow up.
Virdi claimed he spoke to the bank and established it was a scam email that should be ignored.
When he was asked to doublecheck, he said the bank said their may have been some fraudulent activity and he was awaiting more details.
The BSE’s vice president, Professor Martin Stout, became suspicious and contacted the bank himself. He learned that payments had been made into Virdi’s personal bank account and called the police.
Virdi was arrested on May 22.
‘Played for Fools’
“Virdi was entrusted to manage and protect the company’s finances and he completely abused his position and the confidence placed in him, almost as if he expected to get away with it,” said Detective Constable Gavin Markey of the Central East Command Unit CID in a statement.
“In one series of transactions from October to November 2018, he took just over £85,000 (US$115,000). From February to May 2019, he stole just over £53,000 (US$78,000). These staggering sums of money were then frittered away via online gambling websites.
Virdi tried to play his colleagues for fools when they were initially contacted by the bank but they knew something was not adding up and their suspicions were confirmed,” Markey added. “Their efforts and support during our investigation has been invaluable in ensuring Virdi’s conviction and sentencing.”
London Metropolitan Police said it was looking into asset seizure in an attempt to recover some of the stolen funds.
These might also be retrieved if the UK Gambling Commission chooses to investigate and fine the sites Virdi played on.
When players are betting and losing large sums, UK licensed operators are required to establish the customer has the financial means to afford such activities. Someone gambling hundreds of thousands of pounds on a charity worker’s wage should have raised red flags.
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