Jail term for synagogue office fraudster

A synagogue office worker has been jailed for eight months for stealing more than £36,000 from her community to fund a luxury lifestyle.

Susan Rudette spent the money she took from the United Hebrew Congregation in Leeds on a new kitchen, Sky TV subscription, holidays, mobile phone bills and cars.

She supplemented her income using a number of methods, including forging a colleague's signature on shul cheques and falsely claiming payments were made for cemetery and shul maintenance. On two occasions the thefts increased her salary by up to £1,000 a month.

A year after her deception began, Rudette's husband died and her family faced financial pressures, but she continued her wrong-doing.

She had started work as an administrator in the shul office in 2004, handling cash, paying bills and keeping the accounts.

The 43-year-old went on to spend £2,600 of shul money on a new kitchen at her Alwoodley home, and £1,575 on her son's mobile phone bill.

The discovery of one false payment of £647, supposedly for room hire, led officials at the Shadwell Lane shul to suspend her. But the court heard she then remotely accessed the computer system in an attempt to cover up her crimes.

Rudette, a former vice-chair of Brodetsky Primary School's parent-teacher association, admitted five charges of fraud and three of theft at Sheffield Crown Court on Tuesday last week. She took £36,754 in total between November 2007 and April last year.

The Yorkshire Post reported that Judge Rosalind Coe QC told Rudette that the "gross breach of trust" meant an immediate jail term had to be imposed.

Rudette's lawyer, Rodney Ferm, said she felt "obvious shame and remorse" and that many of her friends had ostracised her.

She now faces bankruptcy and has put her family home up for sale. Her father has repaid around £20,000 to the shul, with banks covering the remaining loss.

UHC president Paul Berwin said the shul would not comment on the case, but added that staff were thinking of Rudette's family and children following her imprisonment.

Last updated: 1:09pm, October 6 2011