Man admits to £180k Grand Theatre fraud

Leeds Grand Theatre

Leeds Grand Theatre

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A MAN has pleaded guilty and another is to go on trial over charges relating to defrauding Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House of nearly £180,000.

Dean Oates, 45, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud when he appeared before Leeds Crown Court.

Co-accused Peter Alp, 52, entered a not guilty plea to the charge and is likely to face a trial in June next year.

The charges relate to an alleged £178,340 missing from the theatre’s accounts.

Alp and Oates appeared before the court for a brief pre-liminary hearing where the charges were put to them.

It is claimed Alp, who was head of finance at the historic theatre and had responsibility for the finances of other council-related charities, conspired with Oates to fabricate 54 invoices for services from a company called Bittern Entertainment that were never provided.

The alleged offences took place over a two-year period from 2011 to 2013.

Alp, of Minster Drive, Herne Bay, Kent, and Oates, of Lime Bar Lane, York, will next appear before the court on January 5.

A 51-year-old woman from York, who was also arrested, remains on bail pending further enquiries.

The alleged fraud came to light after Leeds City Council carried out an audit of the charity’s accounts.

A subsequent audit by Armstrong Watson accountants found computer password breaches had led to the suspected fraud payments being made.

A report to the theatre’s trustees by auditor William Booth said: “These breaches have happened because personal and confidential passwords appear to have been shared... There needs to be procedures in place to ensure this does not happen again.”

Mr Booth also criticised the trustees for failing to notify the Charity Commission of the suspected fraud until December last year – several months after evidence first came to light.

The council declined to say whether any members of staff had been suspended or what action it had taken while the legal case was ongoing.