Dunstable man stole millions from charity to fund lifestyle with his mistress

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A Dunstable man who stole more than £2.5 million from the evangelical Christian charity he worked for was jailed for 67 months today/Wednesday.

Stephen Ashton, 62, stole the money when he worked as an accountant at Morris Cerullo World Evangelism in Hemel Hempstead, Herts.

He spent it on a luxury lifestyle - including paying his mistress’ mortgage and expenses, holiday and helicopter trips.

Luton crown court heard he told the mistress, who lived in Newcastle, that his wife had died.

In fact she was living in Dunstable.

Ashton, of West Hill, Dunstable, appeared for sentence having pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position and false accounting.

Prosecutor Robert Bryan told Judge Nic Madge that on 6 March 1992, Ashton had been jailed for 3 years for 11 counts of theft by an employee and two of false accounting.

“There was degree of similarity between that offence and what he has done now,” he said.

In all, he stole £2.54 million from the Christian charity that was based at Sovereign Park in Hemel. He had been employed by them as the accountant for 16 years and was paid a salary of £44,000 a year.

Mr Bryan said: “He abused his position of trust over many years, by falsifying invoices and accounts to pay for his personal affairs, his lifestyle and that of others.

Half a million pounds was spent on his mistress’ home, with £106,000 on a bespoke horse box for her. There were luxury hotel trips in New York and London. Helicopter rides included one from Battersea to Epsom Races.

He was caught last August after suffering a breakdown. Another worker at the charity discovered he had been manipulating reports. In previous reports, Ashton had said an account was £103,000 in credit, in fact it was £403 overdrawn.

When Ashton’s cabinets were opened at work, unpaid invoices, receipts for unheard of companies and letters from debt collectors were found.

Ashton was arrested at Birmingham Airport, having bought a one way ticket to Tenerife.

Judge Nic Madge jailed him for a total of 67 months. A proceeds of crime hearing will be held at a later date.