North East Wales

Plas Madoc Communities First boss admits fraud charges

The head of a regeneration project on a deprived housing estate has changed her plea to guilty in a dramatic twist on the fourth day of her fraud trial.

Miriam Beard, 55, of Henllan, Denbighshire, admitted having "milked" Plas Madoc Communities First Project in Wrexham of more than £51,000 in funds.

She admitted nine of 12 charges and will be sentenced next month.

The trial of her husband James, 46, on fraud and theft charges was dropped but the charges are to remain on file.

Mrs Beard changed her plea in the trial, which had focused on her role as the coordinator of the estate's Communities First project, a registered charity set up to improve the local community.

The Plas Madoc estate in Acrefair, Wrexham is one of the top three most impoverished estates in Wales, the court heard.

Mrs Beard had been appointed its co-ordinator in 2003 after working as a welfare rights money adviser for Wrexham council's social services department.

Image caption Miriam Beard ran the Plas Madoc Communities First project at Wrexham

But the prosecution claimed she hid her previous convictions for dishonesty and other matters in the 1970s, serving a prison sentence in 1979 for conspiracy to defraud.

The jury was told she that she concealed her past by claiming to be 10 years younger, saying that she had left university and gone straight to work after obtaining A levels and GCSEs.

The court heard Beard was answerable to no-one at the scheme apart from a board of trustees who apparently had very little hands-on knowledge of what was taking place.

The court heard she found a way to pay her son Daryl Kelly £18,300 on the pretext that he owned a holiday caravan on the coast and was renting it to the project for the use of residents.

When checks were made, she changed her story and said she was hiring him - at £18,300 for two years - to maintain and keep an eye on it. The caravan was at all times owned by the charity.

The charity also paid £3,000 for a vehicle for Mr Kelly and the evidence showed that he bought another vehicle for £2,000 and sold it to the charity for £8,000.

Wept

She also arranged for him to use her fuel card and he ran up a £4,000 bill over a 15-month period, it was alleged.

It was alleged that she arranged for two cheques, totalling more than £25,000, to be paid into her father's account for running or providing services for children.

The court was told that no such services were provided.

The money was then withdrawn and paid into her account and there was no suggestion that her father knew what was going on.

Beard falsely claimed that it was a device, approved by the board of trustees, to prevent unpaid money being returned to the Welsh assembly.

It had been returned and used for other projects, she originally claimed, but by her guilty pleas accepts that was not the case.

She also admitted fraud over the alleged purchase of a Ifor Williams trailer for a coracle project funded by the National Heritage fund.

'Custody'

James Beard denied eight charges, six charges of fraud and two of theft.

He was allowed to remain in the dock comforting his wife who wept as she entered her pleas. The remaining charges against her are to lie on file.

Judge Rhys Rowlands discharged the jury after they returned the appropriate guilty verdicts.

The case will be listed for a proceeds of crime order on Friday.

Daryl Kelly, 35, of Greater Manchester, admitted six charges against him at an earlier pre-trial review in Cardiff. His case will also be listed on Friday. He will also be sentenced next month.

Judge Rowlands granted Mrs Beard bail but warned her that her case was one which clearly passed the custody threshold.

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