Accountant jailed for £78,000 church fraud

An accountant who had a 'road to Damascus conversion' and confessed all he had done to defraud his Christian Fellowship Church of over £78,000, has been jailed for 10 months.

Court
Court

Judge Geoffrey Miller QC, however, also told the former church financial officer that his purest self-motivation was “for the most venal of reasons”, to sustain a lifestyle he became accustomed to.

The Belfast Crown Court judge said that 43-year-old David Goodwin from Holland Park in Belfast had used his apparent charm to effectively con and deceive church members, leaving those who worked closest with him feeling the most betrayed.

Judge Miller revealed Goodwin had come to Belfast from his native Australia with a £135,000 nest egg from his parents, which “he squandered”, and that as a result of his two years of fraud a number of church activities had to be closed and staff made redundant.

However, the judge said it was clear Goodwin had made the fullest and frankest admissions to police after undergoing his “road to Damascus conversion” for which he was entitled to credit.

Earlier, prosecution lawyer Simon Jenkins said that before going to police Goodwin prepared a ‘spread sheet’ on his computer detailing his 100 frauds committed over a two-year period from March 1, 2014 to May 13, 2016.

Mr Jenkins said Goodwin told detectives that before becoming the church’s financial officer he had been helping out on a voluntary basis and discovered how easy it was to manipulate the books and continued to do so.

Although there was a suggestion Goodwin had done something similar in Australia, he has no previous convictions, either here or there.

Defence barrister Conleith Rooney said that the father of one had come here with his Northern Ireland-born wife with monies given to them help them buy their first home. However, while he was good at managing the accounts of others, he was no good at the management of his own affairs.

Mr Rooney said Goodwin was spending money on a lifestyle which went beyond his means, and after discovering how easy it was to take monies from the church, continued to do so, and what had started out as an opportunist crime took on an element of planning.

However, talks by a one-time petty criminal on how he’d found God and the emotions it released, struck a chord with Goodwin, added the lawyer, and in addition to remorse, the accountant felt the need to go further and seek repentance.

Mr Rooney said Goodwin then detailed his frauds on his computer and “essentially walked into a police station with his laptop under his arm, and said, look what I have done”.

He added that Goodwin did so “because he needed to instigate a real change in his life ... he was going to repent”.

Goodwin, who admitted abusing his position of trust to create false invoices and credit notes and then transfer the monies to his own bank account, will serve an additional 10 months on licensed parole upon his release from prison.