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Leiston fraudster Gemma Pearse handed suspended sentence after embezzling £17,000 from Knodishall Playgroup

A woman from Leiston has been sentenced after stealing more than £17,000 from a playgroup.

Gemma Pearse, 33, of Waterloo Avenue, has been handed a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of fraud while she was treasurer of Knodishall Playgroup.

Pearse embezzled cash and bank transfers between January 1, 2017 and March 17, 2022, Ipswich Crown Court was told. Accounts were also falsified.

Pearse was sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday.
Pearse was sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday.

She resigned from the role in February 2022, but the court heard that during her tenure there was an ‘undercurrent of dissatisfaction’ with her performance, her poor attendance at committee meetings and lack of figures when presenting quarterly reports.

Another member of the playgroup highlighted poor book-keeping on her behalf, where it was unclear if money had been properly banked.

Pearse was arrested in May 2022. She was convicted of fraud by abuse of position on Friday.

She was handed a 16 month jail sentence, suspended for two years and was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid community work.

She stole £17,000 in total.

Ed Vincent, the investigating officer, said: “Pearse has shown remorse through her early guilty plea.

“However, this does not take away the fact her selfish actions caused widespread distress and anxiety for the playgroup management and the parents and carers of children who attend the playgroup.

“Over the course of four years, the monies taken by Pearse could have been put to good use improving the venue and updating equipment that was used there, benefiting the community and enriching the time that the children could have spent there.”