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Warrant may be issued in Stourbridge church fraud case
3:11pm Monday 10th September 2012 in News
A JUDGE has warned he could issue a warrant for the arrest of a man who defrauded a Stourbridge church and religious charity of more than £500,000.
Professional accountant Stephen Methuen pocketed the money while working as treasurer for both the Amblecote Christian Centre and the Christian Internation Relief Mission.
The 57-year-old, who is now living in a caravan in the Stourport area, was due to be sentenced for his crimes at Wolverhampton Crown Court today (Monday September 10).
But Mr John Attwood, defending, produced a medical certificate to Judge John Maxwell which stated Methuen was not well enough to attend.
He said Methuen spent 24 hours in hospital in Worcester at the end of the week and "neurological symptoms" were being investigated by doctors.
Mr Attwood said the certificate made it clear Methuen, who has a number of medical problems, was definitely not fit enough to attend court.
He conceded the case had been "dogged" by Methuen's ill-health but maintained he had been "signed off" because his condition had to be assessed.
Rona Campbell, prosecuting, admitted there was a "high level of scepticism" about the certificate adding: "I accept this is a man who does have medical issues.
"It would not be prudent to ignore the certificate but an approach with some firmness must be made in the future."
The judge adjourned the case until September 20 when he said it was hoped the court would in possession of medical evidence relating to Methuen’s condition.
He added: "I will then consider this evidence. If I am not satisfied I will give consideration to issuing a warrant. I think this step is necessary to progress this case."
Methuen, who lived in Smalman Close, Wordsley, embezzled the evangelical church out of £400,000 and the charity of around £100,000 over a six-year period between 2003 and 2009.
He admitted six charges relating to the falsification of documents at Amblecote Christian Centre, in Brettell Lane, to conceal payments being made to his personal and business accounts.
He admitted a further six charges relating to the falsification of documents for the Relief Mission to conceal payments to him and another four charges of cheating HM Revenue and Customs by filing gift and repayment claims which overstated the total charitable donations between 2005 and 2009.
When he first appeared before the Crown Court, Judge Michael Dudley told Methuen a prison sentence was likely and warned him he would have to attend a further hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize his assets.