NEWS: Top freemason jailed for cheque fraud

NEWS: Top freemason jailed for cheque fraud -->

A former top Freemason has been found guilty of cheque fraud amounting to more than £120,000 of funds stolen from his own lodge, the BBC reports.

Mr. Murphy of Magheralin has been sentenced to a year in prison, as well as an additional year which he will spend on supervised licence.

The 63-year-old had previously claimed he was innocent regarding the 15 charges. But less than six months later the bankrupt County Down accountant admitted he was guilty of abuse of position as well as 14 counts of stealing over £120,000 from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim.

The cheque fraud was first discovered in 2012 when the lodge took on new auditors to look into its finances.

The cheques which had been used to commit the crime required two signatures; however, for business to be conducted smoothly one of the signatures was pre-signed, which meant all Murphy had to do was sign his own signature in order to make fraudulent payments.

Throughout his two interviews, Murphy denied the fraud instead claiming he had mental health problems and had no memory of the crimes he had allegedly committed. However, he later admitted that he had ‘made a mistake’ by using one of the cheques from the lodge to settle a tax bill of over £20,000.

Although his lawyer argued that Murphy, who is separated from his wife, was highly stressed and suffered with continuing mental health issues, including being suicidal, the judge found no exceptional circumstances and as a result the 12 month prison sentence was not suspended.

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