Union finance chief jailed for £53,000 theft

Heath List
Heath List

A Union treasurer stole £53k from the coffers to fund a lavish lifestyle of ski trips, family holidays and private school fees, a court heard.

Heath List, 49, used his position with the Fylde Coast Branch of Unite to write 283 cheques to himself, his family and utility firms – despite having a household income of almost £100,000 a year.

The offences were borne out of greed and were also particularly mean

Much of the money taken from the pot was earmarked for charity contributions - including £2,000 destined for the Japanese Tsunami Appeal, which funded a family ski holiday for List.

He also paid for a private education and the upkeep of a pony for his daughter – along with vets bills and riding lessons – from the Union coffers.

List took over the role of treasurer from a colleague Michael Stott in 2000, when the men worked for BAE systems in Warton.

Preston Crown Court heard List, now of Lingwell Gate Lane, Wakefield, started “borrowing” money from the union funds after his wife Sarah, a headteacher, was seriously injured in a car accident in 2003.

Unable to work, Mrs List placed increasing demands on her husband to spend time with their daughter and provide a lifestyle of three holidays a year and an expensive education.

By the time their marriage broke down, the couple had amassed significant debt and List was taking out regular payday loans, the court heard.

Recorder Nicholas Clarke QC, sentencing, said: “You chose to live a lavish lifestyle, well beyond your means.

“The offences were borne out of greed and they were also particularly mean.”

But when Mr Stott took the role back in 2011 he noticed a number of financial irregularities and cheques which the union would not have paid.

In the six years between 2005 and 2011, List syphoned off 60 - 75 per cent of the branch’s money to fund his family lifestyle.

His wife, although no longer able to work, retained her full salary and List was bringing in a £30,000 per year salary of his own.

A number of local charities, which would usually receive a £200 donation from Unite, were given just £10 while List doctored the receipts to make it appear they had received their full contribution.

He later claimed to have made up the money by putting cash into charity tins on shop counters – although this could never be verified.

Recorder Clarke said: “The meanness of the offences is indicated by the fact that it was the charities which your members wished to contribute which suffered the most significant losses.

“There were 5,300 members of the union branch at the time – each of them has lost the money that they contributed.”

List pleaded guilty to 15 counts of theft and fraud by false representation.

He was jailed for 20 months.