A CHURCH pastor and his wife have been convicted of defrauding almost £250,000 from church-goers, close friends and a school.
Bruce Scott and Belinda Scott duped members of the congregation from the Covenant Church of the Cross in Farnham Common, of which Mr Scott is the pastor, into parting with substantial sums of money.
The South African couple from Overdales, High Wycombe, also targeted friends, business associates and a school between 1998 and 2012.
In total, nine victims handed over just under £250,000 to the Scotts, with a victim in South Africa losing her home after she parted with £41,000.
His Honour Judge Parkes told Mr Scott, 50, that he should expect a custodial sentence after he was convicted of ten counts of fraud and deception at Reading Crown Court on Friday.
Mrs Scott, 43, was found guilty of one count of fraud by false representation following a six week trial.
Police were alerted to the scam in 2011 by a victim, sparking an investigation by the Thames Valley Police Economic Crime Unit (ECU), which uncovered more victims and showed the full extent of the fraud.
Officers said Mr Scott would make verbal and written arrangements about what the cash would be spent on – but the couple spent it on themselves.
Mr Scott was arrested on June 28, 2011, and Mrs Scott was arrested on September 15, 2011, when her involvement in the scheme came to light.
Det Con Jimmy Deans, from the ECU, said: “Mr Scott and his wife abused the trust of a number of people who trusted and respected them and stole large sums of cash from them.
“I am pleased that HHJ Parkes is likely to pass a custodial sentence to Mr Scott and hope this will allow him to reflect on the pain and hardship he has caused his victims.
“We will now be carrying out further investigations to see if we can recover any of the cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act, so that their victims might receive some compensation.”
The couple have been released on bail to appear before the crown for sentencing on January 10.