£14k footie thief won’t repay 1p!

Paula Smith
Paula Smith
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A mum who stole thousands of pounds from a junior football team has been told she does not have to pay back a penny.

Paula Smith, 46, admitted stealing more than £14,000 from Walton-le-Dale Junior Football Club, while volunteering as the club’s treasurer.

The club, which almost went bust as a result, was left with just £13.66 in the bank when the theft was discovered.

Club representatives today said Smith treated herself to holidays in the Caribbean, two new cars and designer clothes throughout her four year deception, although it is unclear if she spent her ill-gotten gains on these.

Smith, who coached the under-10s and acted as the club treasurer, was handed a nine-month suspended prison sentence and ordered to carry out 180 hours community service after admitting two counts of theft totalling more than £14,000.

But club officials are furious after Preston Crown Court did not impose an order for her to pay back the cash.

Mark Atkinson, vice-chairman of the club, said it was almost ‘ruined by one woman’s greed’.

He said: “We are a community club that is here to provide a service to hundreds of local families. We teach the youngsters football, but we are also supposed to be a positive force teaching them about right and wrong.

“We trusted her and she was stealing from us all along. It was lie after lie with her. To in effect steal from children and your own community is unforgivable.”

Executive members of the club first raised the alarm last year after spotting anomalies with the accounts, which were handled by Smith, whose address was given in court as Old Oak Gardens, Walton-le-Dale, when they started receiving warnings for unpaid bills that they thought had been paid.

After going over the books, they discovered the club owed around £5,000 to Wellington Park in Leyland, where they hosted two sportsman’s dinners to raise money for the club.

They also owed thousands of pounds to local schools where teams used indoor facilities to train in the winter and hundreds to the Lancashire FA.

Club executives say they signed cheques to Smith for the bills, but the bills were never paid. When they checked the club’s bank account, where the children’s £10 a month membership fees were paid, there was just £13 left and they were left with thousands of pounds in unpaid debts.

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said Smith was arrested last September and charged with various counts of theft on December 3, last year.

She pleaded guilty to theft of £6,900 between September 2007 and May 2009 and £7,250 between June 2009 and July 2010 at a later court hearing.

Smith, who it is believed was employed as a teaching assistant at a school at the time, was sentenced at Preston Crown Court on August 12.

In the wake of the ordeal dozens of parents removed their children from the club.

Three teams, affecting around 40 local children, also were cut because they could not afford to keep them running.

The Guardian left voicemail messages for Smith and visited the address given in court but could not contact her ahead of publication.