Ray-Bans, iPhones and Omega Watches: How Bookmakers’ Gifts Are Fueling the Crisis | gambling
to Clergy and parishioners Senior ecclesiastical official Martin Sargeant appears to have a gift for financial ventures, forging new links with businesses and helping breathe new life into historic buildings.
A former head of operations for the Diocese of London, part of the Church of England, Sargeant helped lead projects to help churches in the City of London that had small congregations and were desperate for money and revitalization.
Richard Chartres, the former Bishop of London, once praised the influential church administrator for his talent for “turning ideas into profitable projects.”
But as Sargent criss-crosses the Square Mile, handing out money and negotiating agreements with city financiers, developers, and the church, he’s been hiding a secret that ends up dismantling his life and draining parishioners’ money.
Sargent was a gambling addict, and had been addicted to fruit machines since he was a teenager. He fueled his addiction with stolen Church of England money.
On 19 December at Southwark Crown Court in central London, Sargent, 53, was sentenced to five years in prison for fraud by abuse of office. He had stolen £5.21m of church charitable funds between January 2009 and December 2019.
Giorgina Venturella from Public Prosecution Department He said, “The sergeant has abused his position of trust and power for his own selfish purposes. He has taken money to fund an expensive lifestyle, including traveling the world and financing a gambling habit.”
The conclusion in Sargent’s case came as police considered a broader suspect identification scheme Gambling addiction. While there have been various estimates of the cost of crime linked to alcohol and drug addiction – which is in excess of £24 billion a year – there is limited data on the extent of gambling-fueled crime.
In the Sargeant case, the judge, Michael Grave K. The judge concluded that gambling offered “a form of mitigation” in the case.
documents obtained Foreman It reveals that over 12 years Sargent has staked over £12.2m with just one brand of betting.
The industry is now facing calls for more stringent affordability checks.
The prosecution said greed was the principal motive for the churchmaster, but Mark Rovell, who is defending Sargeant, said gambling was at the core of the crime. “It’s the poor cousin of addiction and it’s been understood more recently,” he said.
A statement was read to the court from Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Royal College of Psychiatrists Leading Behavioral Addiction, which said “We must recognize gambling disorder as a mental illness”. While on bail, Sargent was receiving residential treatment for a gambling addiction from the Gordon Moody Charitable Trust.
Originally from Bournemouth, Sargent had a turbulent childhood and began playing fruit machines as a teenager. He resorted to crime to fund the habit, and obtained a community order in 1992 for theft from his employer. In 1995, he was sentenced to 21 months in prison for theft and other crimes.
On his release from prison, he embarked on a successful career with the Church of England, but hidden addictions plagued his life. He confirmed he had informed his employer of his convictions in the 1990s, but the archdiocese said last week that it learned of the crimes from police during their investigation.
Sargent would travel to meetings in taxis so he could maintain phone reception and make sure the virtual fruit machine’s reels kept spinning. On some days, he would play for up to 18 hours and lose up to £20,000.
As his losses mounted, he transferred the money intended to restore the fortunes of the London churches into his personal bank accounts. For 11 years he has bet millions with over 100 gambling websites while diverting grants from the City Church Fund for his fun.
There is no excuse for fraud, Rovell said, but that crimes have “soared” because of the gambling addiction.
documents obtained Foreman From one of the betting brands, Jackpotjoy, it shows that between 2004 and 2016 Sargeant deposited £983,250 and withdrew £513,143, meaning he lost £470,107.
His total bets amounted to £12.27 million, which was many times more than his deposits, as he would repeatedly gamble his winnings and the bonuses he received during the games, piling up the money again several times, with the losses increasing.
Sargent, who earned £86,000 a year, was made a ‘VIP’ player by the bookmaker. His “VIP agent” met at the most important hotels in the capital, including the Soho Hotel and the London Marriott Canary Wharf.
He was given many gifts by the betting outlet, including an Omega watch which retailed at £7,597. He also received Louis Vuitton luggage, Apple computers, and electronics including an iPhone 7, Ray-Ban sunglasses, and a Montblanc watch.
In May 2016, when Sargeant traveled around the world with stolen money, his VIP manager emailed him, saying, “How was Las Vegas? I’d suggest sourcing [Porte-Documents] A bag of Louis Vuitton and a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (with a pencil)? “
At this time, Sargent was gambling across multiple accounts with several major betting brands, but the illicit money flowing through his accounts did not appear to have raised any red flags to the authorities. All gambling companies are required to report suspicious activity under proceeds a crime 2002 Act.
In 2019 Sargeant quit his job and two years later irregularities in the appropriation of funds were discovered in a parish, St Stephen’s Walbrook, and he was arrested. He admitted fraud in his first police interview, telling officers he was a gambling addict. He pleaded guilty to fraud.
During his case, a small group of observers sat quietly at the back of the court at each hearing. They are reformed gambling addicts who have come to support him.
Many police forces are working on projects to help quantify gambling-related crime and provide early support to those who need it.
Brian Faint, a former police officer with the charity Beacon Counselling Trust, helped develop the screening initiative after discovering in 2015 that half of the major financial crimes under investigation by his team at Cheshire Constabulary were gambling-related.
He said: “I was not only surprised, but worried that Cheshire had so much. I didn’t think it was unique to Cheshire, but it was more widespread. It’s a very subtle addiction.”
Faint helped develop the first pilot in 2017 with the Beacon Counselling Trust and Cheshire Police. This has since been distributed to nine other powers. At least seven other powers hope to launch similar screening policies. The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners said it would like to see a national spread of such schemes.
“Although gambling is a recognized problem of mental health disorders, the criminal justice system does not respond to related offenses in an appropriate manner,” says the Commission on Gambling-Related Crimes and Harms, launched by the Howard League for Criminal Reform.
In a statement released after Sargeant’s imprisonment, the Diocese of London said it had reported concerns in 2021 after the diocese raised questions about the money it was expecting. “With legal proceedings now concluded, we continue to work with the police to secure the defrauded funds,” the statement said.
A spokesperson for Gamesys Group, which owns the Jackpotjoy brand, said: “While we cannot comment on individual account activity, we have been part of an ongoing and committed industry effort to improve player protection. The industry is continually investing in responsible gaming and anti-money laundering systems, tools and processes.”
A spokesperson for the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), said the stricter codes of conduct for VIP schemes had seen the number of players registered with them drop by 70%. It said its members also devoted a fifth of TV commercials to safer gambling messages.
They added: “The UK sector is one of the best regulated in the world, with gambling rates among the lowest in Europe at 0.3%, according to the independent regulator.”
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