A woman who defrauded a charity out of more than £150,000 and fled to Turkey before her sentencing hearing has been detained and brought back to the UK.
Donna Wells, formerly of Bridgeway East, Runcorn, previously pleading guilty to fraud offences against Young Addaction Halton, a charity which provided support to people with alcohol, drugs, or mental health issues.
The 41-year-old was sentenced in her absence on Monday 5 June at Liverpool Crown Court to four years for fraud by false representation and acquiring criminal property between January 2018 and January 2020.
She had failed to appear at court on Friday 2 December 2022 and information led police to believe she had fled to Turkey.
Following her attempt to evade justice, Cheshire Police worked closely with authorities in Turkey and on Friday 18 August, Wells was detained and deported back to the UK to face sentence.
She appeared at Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday 22 August where she was told her four-year sentence still stands. She will also serve another four weeks for breaching bail.
Cheshire Police became involved in the case in December 2020 when they were informed of financial irregularities at Young Addaction Halton, relating to payments being made to unknown suppliers, petty cash payments, and card payments.
Wells was employed in a position of a trust as the service manager and approved invoice payments on behalf of the charity.
An audit by the charity revealed a large number of payments being made by Wells, authorising the transfer of funds into four separate bank accounts not known to the charity.
Three of the accounts belonged to Wells but she also used a friend’s husband, Francis Jones, to launder some of the money through his mobile sandwich bar.
Invoices to the value of £42,800 were paid to Jones’ Butty Bar between January 2018 and September 2019.
Jones, 40, of Woodridge, Runcorn, admitted the money had been dishonestly paid into his business by Wells, and he had paid £28,100 of this back to Wells’ accounts.
On Friday 2 December 2022, he was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid work.
Following Wells’ sentencing, Detective Constable Daryl Gavin said:
“Not only did Wells fraudulently take a large amount of money, this money belonged to a charity committed to helping people in need.
“Instead of facing the consequences of her actions, Wells attempted to evade police before she could appear in court to be sentenced.
“But efforts continued to locate Wells, and have resulted in her being detained by Turkish authorities and deported back to the UK to be held accountable for her crimes.
“As this case demonstrates, if you have committed crime in Cheshire, there really is nowhere to hide.”