Financial advisor stole 1 million from a primary school a charity

Michael Garner, 52, placed bets totalling £1.5m, but only won £750,000

He stole money from a primary school PTA as well as his friends

Gambled on average about £10,000 a day on betting website Jackpotjoy

Garner was sentenced to five years and eight months in jail

A financial adviser stole almost £1 million from friends, a charity and investors to feed his online gambling addiction.

Michael Garner, 53, frittered away astronomical amounts on an online casino - placing bets totalling an astonishing £1.5m, but only winning back around £750,000.

To feed his gambling habits, he began stealing from the Cheadle and Gatley Round Table charitable organisation, where he was the trusted treasurer and later president.

He stole ticket money, totalling £2,500, which had been collected by the likes of Cheadle Primary School's PTA and Mathers bakers, in Cheadle, Greater Manchester.

A court heard he also swiped £3,500 from the charity's coffers by forging a signature and paying a cheque from its account directly into his own.

But, as his gambling addiction escalated, so did his stealing.

Garner, a well-known self-employed financial and pensions adviser from Heaton Mersey, Stockport, convinced long-time friend and client Dr Ken Jones, 80, to invest in a trading opportunity he had identified in Switzerland.

Dr Jones, a retired biochemist, cashed in his £100,000 stocks and shares and then paid the money into his trusted pal's account.

But Garner blew the lot on online gambling site Jackpotjoy within a month.

Garner's stealing continued and became more audacious as he scammed a dozen successful businessmen who had been persuaded to invest in the Swiss scheme.

The Escrow Trading Trust, based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, was set up to hold the investors' cash with Garner and two other people as trustees.

Garner forged a bank mandate without the knowledge of the other trustees that allowed him to withdraw money from the trust's account.

Between December 2011 and May 2012, he stole almost £900,000 and paid it into the account he shared with his wife.

The court heard Garner was gambling on average about £10,000 a day on Jackpotjoy - and up to £80,000 a day on some occasions.

His crimes were uncovered when one of the trustees spoke to their bank manager and realised the cash had gone missing.

Garner was arrested at his home on Woodside and later pleaded guilty to five counts of theft relating to the Round Table, and two counts of fraud and 22 counts of theft relating to the Swiss investment opportunity.

Sentencing Garner to five years and eight months in jail, Recorder Michael Hayton QC described Garner's breach of trust as 'grotesque'.

He added: 'Your life has been ruined by this addiction.'

Anna Mackenzie, defending, told the court Garner was remorseful and understood his actions had 'devastated' the lives of himself, family, friends and victims.

She added his marriage appeared to be over and his matrimonial home, his only asset, had been sold to help pay off a civil claim made by the investors against him.

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