Council Finance Manager Admits Taking £62,000 Meant For Grenfell Survivors
A council boss in charge of handouts for Grenfell Tower survivors stole £62,000 ($80,000) for luxury holidays, fine dining and online gambling.
Finance manager Jenny McDonagh, 39, used pre-paid credit cards for holidays to Dubai, Los Angeles and Reykjavík, as well as shelling out for posh meals and spending £16,000 ($20,700) on online betting.
She stole the money after she was assigned to help survivors of the Grenfell fire and was working for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
McDonagh even continued to use the stolen cards, which were meant for survivors without bank accounts, after police quizzed her under investigation in August 2018.
At Westminster Magistrates' Court, she admitted two counts of fraud by abuse of position, one of theft by employee and one money laundering offence.
The court also heard McDonagh, of Abbey Wood, south east London, is under investigation for two suspected frauds in her previous jobs, one at the NHS and another at the V&A gallery in London.
Prosecutor Robert Simpson said she stole pre-paid cards meant for survivors before spending the cash or putting it into her own bank account.
But she was caught out after she made bookings, including for hair appointments and meals in posh restaurants, in her own name.
Mr Simpson said: "It was unsophisticated. Even though she was using fraud funds she was booking restaurants and hair appointments and so-on in her own name, thus the guilty pleas. The whole trail leads towards her."
Survivors of the fire could opt for cash payments into their bank accounts or pre-paid cash cards which could be used to spend the money.
In one case a fire victim, Edward Dafforn, was given a pre-paid card by mistake, which McDonagh then used herself.
Mr Simpson said: "Mr Dafforn always indicated he wanted money paid into a bank account, however initially by error he was issued one of those top-up cards in his name.
"He then indicated via his social worker he wanted payments to be made into his bank account. The defendant continued keeping the top up card alive and was responsible for it being topped up and used it to the tune in the subject of the charge."
Mr Simpson added: "In relation to the thefts those were a number of pre-paid cards which she stole and used, and then in relation to her bank account some £32,000 worth of funds went through that."
Referring to the online gambling, he continued: "She spent £32,000 of which she had £16,000 winnings. She roughly lost about £16,000 in funds in online gambling."
McDonagh was arrested in August and quizzed about the crimes - then continued to use the cash cards after her release.
Mr Simpson explained: "She's someone who seems unable to stop herself."
The court heard that McDonagh has found new work as a finance officer at a mental health charity but she was told to quit and warned she faced at least three years behind bars for the crimes.
Initially McDonagh's husband didn't want her to return to the pair's marital home, according to the Mirror, but it is believed he is now willing to accept her back.
Her defence solicitor Robert Katz said: "I have spoken to him. He's prepared to take her back. He was not prepared to. It was the initial shock and the concern about the press. He had no idea about this.
"He would like his wife back at home and he is supportive of her."
McDonagh was bailed ahead of her sentencing in about one month at Isleworth Crown Court.
The conditions are that she must inform the police if she plans to accept further work, wear an electronic tag, surrender her passport and not apply for any travel documents.
She is the 12th person to be charged with fraud in relation to the fire, which claimed 72 lives.
Featured Image Credit: SWNS