Church Manager for Diocese of London Stole $6M to Gamble

Depending on your philosophical bent, gambling may or may not be a sin. While this question leaves some room for theological debate, the theft of church funds is usually subject to man-made laws. As such, a former Church of England official was charged with defrauding a charity of more than £5 million ($6.11 million) that he allegedly spent on gambling and air travel, among other discretionary expenditures.

Fraud that Went on For a Decade

Martin Sargeant, 52, served in the diocese of London between 2008 and 2019 and is said to have misused the charity’s funds, which have been accumulating since 1891 and were supposed to be allocated to the restoration and maintenance of church property. Sargeant is said to have spent a total of £5.2 million ($6.36 million) in the ten years he served as operations manager for the diocese.

Sargeant appeared in court last Friday where the charges against him were read. He is accused of fraudulent requesting funds for dysfunctional churches but ended up appropriating the money through bank accounts he had access to, among many else.

Sargeant did not offer any plea or defense, The Guardian reported, during his first appearance in court. The money he took out of the charity’s accounts was transferred to his personal accounts and was spent, as per the prosecutors, on “frivolous things like gambling” and “personal entertainment.”

Awaiting Trial in Southwark Crown Court

Sargeant will appear in the Southwark Crown Court on September 2. He has been granted bail for the time being and has a prohibition of leaving the United Kingdom, as well as refraining from contacting any diocese employees. Sargeant faces a litany of charges against him, including embezzlement and money wandering.

His case was moved to the Crown Court from the Westminster Magistrates’ Court where he appeared on Friday due to the severity of the charges against him. Sargeant was investigated by officials in 2021 when the irregularities and missing funds were established.

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