A HARTLEY Wintney man has admitted to defrauding a disabled charity to purchase a house in France a court head.

Patrick McLarry, who now lives in Bere Alston, Devon, appeared at Salisbury Crown Court today where he pleaded guilty to taking the funds from Yateley Industries for the Disabled.

The court heard that between March 2012 and February 2013 the 71-year-old arranged for £256,127 to be transferred from the charity pension scheme into bank accounts he controlled.

He then used this money to buy a home and a small warehouse in the south of France, a house in Hartley Wintney, and repay a debt he owed over the purchase of a pub lease in Portsmouth.

At the time of committing the fraud, McLarry was both the chief executive and chairman of the charity and a director of VerdePlanet Limited, the corporate trustee of the charity’s pension scheme.

However, he was caught after The Pensions Regulator (TPR), who brought the prosecution, launched an investigation into McLarry which revealed that prior to VerdePlanet being appointed as the trustee of the scheme, the corporate trustee took the unusual step of amending the scheme’s definitive deed which meant the scheme was unable to pursue McLarry for the funds which he went on to take.

The tried to cover his tracks by forging documents, lying to TPR investigators about who owned the properties involved and then refusing to hand over vital evidence.

TPR convicted McLarry for failing to hand over bank statements at trial in April 2017, after which the bank statements were given to TPR.

They revealed that he had used scheme funds to purchase his house in France.

In court, Judge Andrew Barnett told McLarry: “It is a serious matter and the only outcome is a substantial prison sentence.”

Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, said: “McLarry posed as a pillar of the community while he was secretly working to steal for himself the pension savings of dozens of disabled workers.

“He lied repeatedly to try to muddy the waters around him but our investigators cut through his attempts at deception to uncover the truth.

“This prosecution shows that we will do everything in our power to take action against those criminals who raid pension pots for their own gain. We will now work to recover the funds McLarry took.”

McLarry will be sentenced on December 13.