Ex-Army Major, 61, is jailed for 7 years after doctoring notes to DOUBLE his salary to £111,000

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A former Army Major has been jailed for seven years after doctoring meeting notes to more than double his salary to £111,000 to buy 19 guns, stays at the Ritz and Rolls Royce cars.

Stephen Coleman, 61, inflated his own wage by 130 per cent and defrauded the Jersey Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals out of more than £400,000.  

The Royal Court in Jersey heard he almost bankrupted the charity with his lavish lifestyle including a Rolls Royce Phantom, a Rolls Silver Wraith, a Porsche Cayenne, 19 guns and £15,000 diamond ring.

Coleman also bought a new home and jetted in business class with his wife to the five-star Ritz Carlton in Sarasota, Florida, each year for weeks-long sojourns worth £10,000 a pop.   

The Royal Court in Jersey heard that Coleman, who was head of the charity from 2006 to 2017, committed the offences to ‘maintain a status and lifestyle’ he could not afford.

It was heard he doctored minutes of meetings to give himself pay rises and huge bonuses – including one of £17,000.

His offending also led to bonuses and pay rises being awarded to other innocent members of staff. The Crown say the purpose of this may have been ‘to hide the magnitude of his own pay rises’.

In total Coleman’s salary increased from £47,500 when he joined in 2006 to more than £111,000 by 2016.

He benefited personally, the court heard, to the tune of more than £338,000.

Such was the impact of his offending, the charity – one of Jersey’s oldest – was nearly brought to its knees.

The court made a confiscation order of more than £228,210 – to be used to compensate the JSPCA. His home is to be sold.

In a statement, after the case the States police said: ‘Throughout the investigation, his arrogance and lack of empathy have been remarkable.

‘The widely reported impact upon the charity, and its treasured status with Islanders, appears to have been of little consequence to him. He has only ever thought of himself.’

The court heard on one occasion he implemented a personal pay rise of 17 per cent, when in fact he had only been awarded five per cent.

He pleaded guilty to 19 charges in relation to fraudulent receipt of money from the JSPCA. The seven year jail term was one year longer than what was asked for by the Crown.

After his guilty plea prosecutors lifted the lid on the extravagant lifestyle his crimes rewarded him with.

Following his arrest in 2018, prosecutors filed for a ‘saisie judiciaire’ to seize many of Coleman’s assets including a house, jewellery and gun collection.

The motion saw authorities take control of two of Coleman’s bank accounts and a property on the island, from where 33 firearms were seized.

Four vehicles were taken including, a blue Rolls Royce Shadow, a red Rolls Royce Silver Wraith, a red Range Rover and a black Honda S2000.

Jewellery worth nearly £20,000 was also confiscated, including 18 carat yellow and white gold three-stone diamond rings, claimed to be worth £4,850 and £14,800. 

The Royal Court heard Coleman was able to deceive the charity for so long because as part of his job he would receive minutes from meetings of the charity’s board which he would legitimately alter for typos and minor issues.

The minutes from some meetings would include recommendations for pay rises for various staff, including Coleman, expressed in percentages.

Coleman would then tell finance officers of the pay rises but express the values in inflated cash amounts, not percentages.

The legitimately amended minutes would then be sent back to the board for signing.

Once Coleman received the minutes again, which were only signed on the back page, he would remove inside pages referring to agreed pay rises and replace them with his doctored versions so auditors would not detect his crimes.

These minutes would then be filed away in his office which was out of bounds to all but him.

Detective Constable Shaun Smith, the officer in charge of the case, added: ‘Coleman had been appointed by a committee who entrusted him to manage the charity on a day-to-day basis.

‘Coleman was the most senior employee at the JSPCA and the only member of staff who attended the committee meetings, including meetings when pay rises and Christmas bonuses were proposed and awarded.’

Detective inspector Lawrence Courtness, head of the Joint Financial Crimes Unit, added: ‘Whilst others may have inadvertently benefited through Coleman’s actions, our investigation has identified that it was only Coleman whose actions were criminal and we are not investigating any other parties in relation to this matter.’

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