The Head Professional at The Royal Winchester Golf Club jailed for five years for fraud
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The Head Professional at The Royal Winchester Golf Club has been jailed for five years after defrauding the club out of over £100,000.
Steven Alexander Hunter, 54, of Mill Lane, Abbots Worthy, was convicted by a jury at Salisbury Crown Court on 23 June of the following four counts:
• Fraud by abuse of position of trust • Fraud by false representation • False accounting • Cheating Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) of public revenue
The court heard that Hunter, started working for the golf club in 1987 before becoming The Head Professional in 1992.
As part of his role, Hunter was entrusted to collect the green fee income from guests and visitors under the agreement of reporting and transferring the money back to the club.
In June 2018, the club manager carried out a financial inspection of the books from September 2016 and found that the figures Hunter declared were significantly less than the income recorded in the visitors’ book.
This raised suspicions and the club reported the matter to Action Fraud, leading to a full investigation that found that between 2013 and June 2018, Hunter had underreported the green fee income to a total of £109,000.
The investigation also uncovered thefts from two charity Pro-Am events held in 2017 and 2018.
The court heard that Hunter organised the events in memory of Les Day, a long standing member of Winchester Golf Club who had passed away, advertising the proceeds as going to Canine Partners, a charity close to Les’ heart.
Analysis carried out by a forensic accountant found that after the expenses for the events had been paid, there was approximately £11,000 in event income unaccounted for. Further analysis discovered that a number of payments had been transferred from the event bank account controlled by Hunter, to his golf professional account and then on to his personal account, labelled ‘salary’.
The charity received a total of £47.75 from the contents of a collection tin.
The court also heard that Hunter arranged for the shop’s credit/debit card machine to send payments directly to his personal account. On an almost daily basis, Hunter transferred funds to his business account, labelling the transactions as ‘terminal’ to make it appear to his accountants that the money came directly from the card machine, to cover up his thefts.
Close analysis showed Hunter had not transferred the full amount of takings to his business account and over a five year period he had kept over £60,000 for himself.
The investigation showed that Hunter made a significant number of payments from his business account, referencing the transactions as ‘RWGC’, to lead his accountants to believe it was money paid to the golf club. However financial analysis showed that in excess of £190,000 had in fact been paid into other accounts controlled by Hunter.
The investigation also found that Hunter had been providing his accountants with cheque stubs made out as payments to the club. However when compared to the cheques themselves, they had in fact been exchanged for cash or written out to Hunter’s personal account. The overall figure for the false accounting charge was £343,449.
Hunter also failed to declare to HMRC the annual retainers paid to him by the golf club to operate the shop to avoid paying tax, claimed VAT when he was not registered for VAT and underpaid National Insurance contributions, cheating the public revenue out of over £100,000.
Appearing at Salisbury Crown Court today (28 July), Hunter was sentenced to five years in prison.
Detective Constable Mike Dumbleton from Hampshire Constabulary’s Economic Crime Unit said “Hunter grossly abused the trust he had gained through years working at the Royal Winchester Golf Club. He stole vast sums of money to fund a lifestyle he would not have been able to otherwise afford.
“Not only did the golf club suffer financial loss, Hunter took money intended for a charity. He callously deceived people, leading them to believe their money was going to a good cause. Instead it went directly into his back pocket.
“This investigation involved extensive analysis of a huge amount of financial documentation in order to gather the evidence needed to put Hunter before the court.
“I am pleased that all the hard work put into this investigation has resulted in Hunter being convicted and the actions of the club, who decided not to renew Hunter's contract in 2019, have been fully vindicated. He will now serve time in prison for his fraudulent crimes."