Former chairman admits defrauding amateur dramatics group

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The former chairman of the Thetford Players has admitted defrauding the group of more than £7,000 including £1,000 intended as a donation to East Anglian Children’s Hospice.

Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ court heard of the 39-year-old’s disgust at his actions when he pleaded guilty to using a position of authority to defraud the group of £7,394 between January 2010 and March 2013, on Tuesday.

Robert Waple had been chairman of the amateur dramatics group since 2010.

Rosalind Cappleman, prosecuting, told the court how he repeatedly failed to pay cash raised through ticket sales, charity events and craft fairs into the group’s bank account.

The court heard how Waple tried to conceal his theft of £1,400 raised through ticket sales.

He told members the money had been placed in his employer’s safe which he was unable to access and later that a clerical error must be the reason it had failed to appear in the group’s account.

An appointment was made with the bank but later cancelled by Waple.

Waple also lied to the 104 members of the Thetford Players after promotional clothing and dvds he had taken advance payment for failed to be delivered.

Mrs Cappleman told the court an emergency meeting was called by members in March this year after accounting discrepancies came to light.

Among the funds missing was more than £1,000 raised by the group through a Monopoly Race and collection for East Anglian Children’s Hospice and collected by Waple.

The court heard that when confronted by members Waple had broken down and offered to repay the money when he found employment.

A statement by Joanne Cooper, vice chairman of Thetford Players, was read to the court.

She said: “We have taken it personally as we thought he was a friend and someone we trusted.

“He was in a position of trust and as a committee we took it for granted he was banking the money, but instead he was using it to fund his life.”

In her statement Ms Cooper said the committee felt they had to refer the matter to the authorities to protect others from Waple.

The Thetford Players has had to take out a £4,000 loan to prevent it from folding.

In mitigation, Jakki Upton said Waple’s difficulties had arisen at the end of 2011 when his wife underwent serious surgery.

He left his job to act as carer to her and their seven-year-old child and was struggling financially.

Mrs Upton told the court: “He is disgusted with his behaviour, he is sorry, he wishes it had never happened.”

The court heard that since his crime had been exposed Waple had visited a doctor and been prescribed anti depressants.

Magistrate Stuart Roy said that due to the persistent nature of the crime, the amounts involved and the lies told to conceal his actions, Waple would be sentenced at crown court.

He will appear at Norwich Crown Court at a date to be set.