Published: 00:01, 30 June 2014
A mother-of-three has admitted stealing £3,000 from a neighbourhood project that she helped to set up to improve her community.
Danielle Amusa, 30, was one of several mothers living on a Chatham housing estate who wanted to restore its reputation and improve activities for children living there.
Along with other women, including friend Gemma O’Hara, she set up the White Road Neighbourhood Panel to tackle problems on the White Road estate.
Cash was donated by three councillors including Labour leader Vince Maple, and other donations came from Medway Council, Medway’s largest landlord, mhs homes, and the Co-op.
However, Amusa, of Ansell Avenue, Chatham, started to dip into the funds when she was short of cash.
She was sacked from the panel, and admitted a charge of theft when she appeared before magistrates in Medway in May.
She returned for sentencing, and the court was told she was put in charge of the cash when the treasurer of the group became ill.
Debbie Jones, prosecuting, said: “She had a responsibility to deal with the payments, and obtained a debit card.
“She used it for car repairs and a trip to Diggerland, and the account went overdrawn by £379 and was eventually closed.
“The community project money had been stolen, and in all between £2,500 and £3,000 is missing. In July (2113) she sent an email to Cllr Vince Maple confessing her guilt.”
She told police she was often given blank cheques for the neighbourhood panel, and had told other members her car needed repairing and they had allowed her to use panel funds.
Amusa also admitted using the funds for groceries and for hospital visits to London for her daughter, who suffers from a heart defect. With other expenditure, she estimated the total spent was about £3,000.
Through her solicitor, Sacha Alexander, she claimed she should never have been put in charge of the cash and was going through a “manic episode”.
Ms Alexander, who said her client had been diagnosed bipolar and had a personality disorder, added: “She refutes she requested the debit card, but does accept taking some of the money as her benefit had been stopped at the time and she only had £45 a week to live on.
“She told the other panel members, and they agreed she could used the card.
"She did use it to take her children to Diggerland, but it was out of desperation to give them a normal family day out.
"It was also agreed with the panel that she could use the card for her car repairs. They were fully aware where this money was going, and there were other individuals taking from the pot.
“Another panel member, Helen Morrish, had sent her a text, and I have seen it, asking for £1,200 from the fund as she had bailiffs at her door.
“Mrs Amusa was having a manic episode at the time and replied to say she didn’t want any contact.”
“She does bear full responsibility and is extremely remorseful she had lost her good character" - defending, Sacha Alexander
It was not made clear in court if Ms Morrish ever got the money.
Ms Alexander said: “She [Amusa] has handed over £600 worth of antiques to make an attempt to try and resolve the solution. She thought they were being sold at auction.
“She does bear full responsibility and is extremely remorseful she had lost her good character.”
Magistrates placed Amusa on an 18-month community order, which will involve her carrying out 100 hours of unpaid work.
She was also ordered to pay £750 compensation back to the panel. Richard Page, chairman of the bench, said: “This is a serious offence. There was a breach of trust, but we accept your problems and that this is your first offence.”
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