A SUFFOLK mental health charity has started civil proceedings against a former manager to retrieve thousands of pounds she plundered during a credit card fraud.

Sharon Carr, of Raynsford Road, Great Whelnetham, near Bury St Edmunds, was due to be sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday.

However, the 51-year-old fraudster’s sentence has now been deferred until July 15 because Carr disputed the prosecution’s contention that she had a previous conviction for defrauding an employer in 1980.

In addition Lindsay Cox, representing Carr, said he was unable to present several testimonials to the court on her behalf due to an administrative problem with the probation service.

Prosecutor Michael Crimp told the court Carr had admitted fraud by abuse of position at West Suffolk Mind at an earlier hearing.

Mr Crimp said although Carr pleaded guilty to a fraud of �5,821.40, originally the Crown’s case was that more than �8,000 was appropriated – although Carr disputed this.

He added that there would be no need for a proceeds of crime hearing at a later date as West Suffolk Mind had started proceedings to recover the money.

Carr was employed by West Suffolk Mind from 2000 onwards, first as a housing manager and then as a deputy area manager.

During her employment Carr was issued with a company credit card in the charity’s name, subject to a �1,000 limit, for business-related purchases.

In exceptional circumstances this could be used to make personal purchases as long as the amount was paid back within a month.

In November 2009 discrepancies were discovered in the charity’s accounts. Although Carr had made significant personal purchases by July 2009, no money had been repaid since April that year.

Carr used the credit card to buy hair care products, books, dvds, cds, meals in restaurants, electrical items and food and wine.

Efforts were made to conceal these purchases by cost coding them as other items, Mr Crimp said.

Housing fixtures and fittings for �52 turned out to be for food and wine from a supermarket, and a tooth whitening kit was coded as books.

When Carr was confronted, she accepted she was responsible for a fraud of more than �5,000.