Pro golfer found guilty of defrauding historic course ‘£100k’

A professional golfer at a historic course has been warned that he will face a lengthy prison sentence after pleading guilty to fraudulently committing more than £50,000 to club green fees and charity Golf Days. Steven Hunter was head pro at the Royal Winchester Golf Club in Hampshire – where membership fees are £1,300 a year – when he announced the money paid by visitors to play the course and kept the difference for himself.

A four-week trial heard Hunter had been apprehended after club staff discovered ‘persistent’ discrepancies, totaling more than £45,000 over a period of nearly two years. An investigation found that more than £11,000 of profits from the two charity golf days went into Hunter’s bank account and less than £50 went to charity.

Despite Hunter’s defense that he got his math wrong with green fees and used money from the charity’s days to pay for events, a unanimous jury found him guilty of four counts of fraud. At Salisbury Crown Court, Wilts, Judge Andrew Barnett warns Hunter that he faces prison.

He added: “These frauds that have been uncovered and you are now found guilty are extremely serious and will most likely lead to a long prison sentence.”

Overall, Hunter was convicted of four out of five counts of fraud. The trial heard how the 54-year-old married Scott had been working at the golf club, which dates from 1888 through the late 1980s and runs the club shop through his business Steven Hunter Golf Shops Ltd.

But in July 2018, concerns were raised by club manager Stuart Dubber, when he observed that the Green fee should have been £3,710 for the previous month, when Hunter declared only £1,075. Prosecutor Tom Nicholson told the trial that Hunter had “abused his position as head pro”, was “misleading, false and deceptive” and “betrayed the tax man”.

He added: “He consistently underestimated the green fees paid by visitors to the Royal Winchester Golf Club when his contract said it was club money. Mr. Dauber began to compare the club’s accounts to the visitor’s book , a painstaking process, and he felt that the issue had been repeated over the past months.

“Green fees were consistent and fairly low… the 2018 income should have been around £16,000 by June, when the defendant reported just over £5,000, which was actually about 30 per cent of the payment. He made that belief. leveraged what he had built on the trust he had earned as a longtime member of the club.”

The court heard that only the visitor’s book could be found and only went back in September 2016, although club officials looked into the accounts and cross-referenced with the book, finding that the period had cost £44,174. was paid less.

Hunter told jurors that he was “absolutely shocked” when the fraud was uncovered and claimed that “the columns were not aligned properly” because he had done it in a hurry.

Mr Nicholson added: “Two Charity Golf Days were established in memory of a long-standing member, Les Day. He died in 2014 and Golf Days was established to aid a specific charity , which he loved, called. Canine Partners. In fact, the defendant easily pocketed the money he made during these golf days.”

The court sponsored pro-am events to businesses such as pub chain Green King and golf brand Mizuno, which featured local professional golfers, and participants paid a round of golf, bacon rolls, coffee, and a three-course meal.

After taking into account the costs in setting up the events in 2017 and 2018, a profit of £11,141 was made that should have been paid to Canine Partners. However, the court heard that the only money paid to the charity was £47.75, made from a coin collection at the 2017 event.

In addition, Hunter was also found to have ‘defrauded public revenue’ by claiming VAT on his retainer salary of approximately £30,000 a year at the golf club, despite not having the authority to do so.

He was also convicted of ‘wrong accounting’ when he held in his personal account about £60,000 from a pro shop, which he should have kept in his business account for tax purposes. A jury acquitted him on another count of fraud, accusing him of lying about his salary to mortgage his £1.6 million home.

Hunter argued that he had left all the paperwork related to the mortgage to his accountants. Summarizing the case, Mr Nicholson said Hunter had ‘abused his position as head pro’, was ‘misleading, false and deceptive’ and ‘deceived the tax man’.

Hunter, who now lives at Abbots Worthy, near Winchester, will be sentenced next month.

Following the court case, the Crown Prosecution Service revealed that the true scale of Mr Hunter’s fraud is believed to be in excess of £100,000. Prosecutors told the jury that £44,174 was owed based on a golf club visitor book dating back to 2016.

However, after examining records, club officials estimated that the total amount Hunter stole in green fees between June 2013 and June 2018 was an estimated £110,000.

Elizabeth Meadland, CPS Wessex’s Senior Crown Prosecutor, said: “The case involved a thorough and complex investigation, including a review of a large number of financial records and evidence from financial experts to find out how Hunter fraudulently took money.” His deception not only caused financial damage to the golf club, but also prevented a charity from receiving the benefits of a very generous donation made in memory of a man who meant a lot to the club and its patrons. was. “

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