A Church of England employee has been jailed for five years after a court heard he “defrauded the Church in a persistent, sophisticated and frankly brazen manner" between 2009 and 2019.
Martin Sargeant, 53, was paid £86,000 a year to work as clerk of the City Church grants committee charitable trust, looking after over 30 churches.
He pleaded guilty after it was revealed he applied for maintenance grants but used the money to travel the world in luxury and fund his gambling addiction.
According to PA at Southwark Crown Court, prosecutor Joey Kwong said: "It is clear that the funds were lavished on his lifestyle.”
"By the end of the fraud he had assets of more than £450,000 across personal bank accounts as well as having three properties in Scotland worth approximately £1 million,” he added.
He was said to have booked 158 flights with British Airways over a decade.
Just £1,500 was spent by him on the churches during that same time period.
It was also revealed that he had previously been convicted of theft in 1992 and 1995 - convictions he claimed the Church of England was aware of when employing him.
Speaking following the sentence, sergeant’s barrister Mark Ruffell said he was "genuinely sorry and he accepts 100 per cent what he has done".
"Underlying all that has gone on is his gambling addiction," he added.
The fraud came to light last year after officials in the Diocese of London became suspicious.
Speaking in response to the sentencing, Richard Perry, chair of the London Diocesan Fund’s Audit and Risk Committee, said: “Following the reporting of our concerns to the authorities in 2021, our priority was to support their enquiries and, with the legal proceedings now concluded, we are continuing to work with the Police to secure the defrauded funds.
"Last year, our auditors carried out an urgent review of our present-day financial controls, to confirm they are robust.
"A further independent fraud enquiry, conducted by external forensic accountants, is being commissioned now the court case is complete, and it will report to the London Diocesan Fund’s trustees next year.”
Bishop of London, Rt Rev Dame Sarah Mullally, added: “I want to echo my gratitude to the Police, and to the London Diocesan Fund’s financial team, for their significant work over the past year, as they investigated the extent of this complex, historic fraud.”