Woman admits defrauding pre-school out of thousands of pounds

Ipswich Magistrates Court on Elm Street.

Ipswich Magistrates Court on Elm Street. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

A woman has admitted defrauding a Suffolk pre-school out of thousands of pounds while working as chair of trustees.

Magistrates in Ipswich heard how Laura Stannard, 32, held the position at Mendlesham Pre-School – which was independently run by the registered charity Mendlesham Pre-School Committee.

David Bryant, prosecuting, said concerns were raised over finances after a number of late payments of bills, including one to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) worth around £2,800.

There were other late payments to suppliers and for services, magistrates heard. 

Mr Bryant said: “In short, there appears to be a loss of around £50,000. 
“It also appears that a significant amount has been repaid in order to make up the shortfall.”

The court heard that the outstanding amount has yet to be finalised. 

The fraud took place between August 1, 2013, and February 5, 2017. 

Stannard, of Westhorpe Road, Wyverstone, near Stowmarket, appeared at Suffolk Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position. 

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She spoke only to confirm her personal details and enter her guilty plea at the short hearing. 

Magistrates committed Stannard to the crown court for sentence. 

An all options pre-sentence report was ordered by magistrates and Stannard was released on unconditional bail ahead of her sentencing hearing, which will take place on a date to be fixed at Ipswich Crown Court. 

The pre-school, which leased  the village hall in Mendlesham, abruptly closed its doors in November 2019. 

Speaking at the time, the pre-school committee said it understood recent events “would come as a shock and disappointment to the community”. 

In the summer of 2019, Ofsted graded the pre-school as requiring improvement. 

The pre-school received the rating across the board, from the effectiveness of leadership and management to the quality of personal development. behaviour and welfare.

However, the education watchdog did praise the pre-school for fostering “friendly and trusting” relationships between staff and parents.

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