Community councillor admits £2,500 fake receipt fraud

A Fife community councillor has admitted committing fraud after colleagues became suspicious of a false receipt he provided for putting on a £2,500 festival.

As events organiser for Anstruther, Kilrenny and Cellardyke Community Council, David Shields was behind an art, music and food festival staged in Cellardyke last July.

However, fellow community councillors confronted him after he produced a receipt for the three-day event from a local company called Thaw Entertainments which appeared not to exist.

At Cupar Sheriff Court on Wednesday, Shields, 50, of George Street, Cellardyke, admitted accounting for an advance of £2,500 by fraud between September 20 and October 1, last year.

The charge stated that, having been given the money by the community council for entertainment services, he pretended to have spent £2,450 with Thaw Entertainments and provided a false receipt in that name.

An application is being made against him under the Proceeds of Crime Act, which allows profits of crime to be recovered.

The court heard that Fife Council had given the community council a £5,000 grant for the festival and other community events.

Just days before the festival, Shields asked for a cheque for £2,500, stating that bands and stewarding staff needed paid.

Although the treasurer told him it was unusual to pay up front, the community council agreed to the transaction.

Shields later handed over a receipt stating he paid Thaw Entertainments £2,000 for bands, £200 for sound technicians and £250 for security.

Procurator fiscal depute Alison Michie said: “Certain members of the community council were suspicious of the receipt as it appeared to be amateurish and had no VAT number or telephone number.

“Some of the council made further inquiries into this company and couldn’t find a trace of it.”

One of the community councillors realised that Thaw was the surname of Shield’s daughter’s boyfriend, she said.

Mr Thaw was contacted and said he had no knowledge of the receipt but that he had helped the accused run the festival.

When challenged, Shields claimed Mr Thaw was setting up an entertainment business and dismissed concerns about the receipt.

At a closed meeting of the community council on October 1, however, he admitted making up the receipt himself and claimed he had done so as the bands would not give him receipts for cash-in-hand payments.

Subsequently, Shields did provide receipts accounting for £1,022 which were checked and verified by police.

Ms Michie said: “Whilst those receipts that the accused was able to provide accounted for quite a large portion of the money, they did not account for all the money.”

She also said that Shields, a publican, had run bars at some of the events and had paid bands in drinks.

She said: “It’s very unclear exactly what has been paid for and what has not been paid for.”

Sheriff Charles Macnair deferred sentence on Shields for four weeks for reports.

Following the hearing, Shields insisted the money had all been spent on the festival.

He said: “It was an accounting mistake. I was rushed to provide invoices by the treasurer.”

Shields, who runs the Ship Tavern in Anstruther, is no longer a community councillor but said he was still organising community events.