'Vile' woman faked being a doctor to defraud child bereavement charity 2Wish
A "chronic liar" faked being a doctor and pretended she had a twin who died from cancer in order to get a job with a bereavement charity.
Stephanie Jones, 30, defrauded the "2Wish" charity by inventing a counsellor and sending false invoices to the charity for sessions which never happened.
The charity, which was set up in 2012, supports families in the immediate aftermath of the death of a child. The police even had to visit the real family of a murdered girl to check if they had been counselled as Jones claimed.
Overall, she had submitted 19 false invoices for a total of £3,570 in nine months.
A judge at Caernarfon Crown Court branded Stephanie Jones's behaviour "vile, unthinkable and despicable" and called her a "chronic liar".
In a statement police called Jones "callous in the extreme".
Prosecutor Patrick Gartland said Jones applied for a job at 2Wish as an Immediate Support Co-ordinator in February 2020.
She claimed to have a PhD doctorate degree in Sociology, which entitled her to call herself a doctor. But it transpired that she had taken a Masters degree at Bangor University.
She also claimed she had had a twin sister who died aged five from cancer. Mr Gartland said she gave "different versions" of the supposed death of her sibling and her claim turned out to be untrue, the court heard.
He said Jones' job involved referring bereaved families to counsellors but she was not a counsellor herself. She is said to have made up a counsellor called Sarah Jones with a fictitious company and address.
Invoices paid to Sarah Jones were paid under the name "S. Jones" but to an account which had Stephanie Jones' sort code and account number.
In a statement, Rhian Mannings, who founded the charity said she was "deeply saddened and disappointed" by the "clear breach of trust from Ms Jones".
"We would like to thank North Wales Police for all of their hard work.
"We would also like to reassure anyone who works with 2Wish - whether this is through fundraising or any other type of support - that the services we provide have in no way been affected as a result of this breach."We diligently followed all protocols and procedures to the letter, and continue to do so to provide support to families who have experienced the sudden los of a child or adult under 25."
Jones admitted fraud between 28 August 2020 and 21 January 2021.
Elen Owen, defending, said her client remembers things differently compared with what she is accused of saying. But she "created something of a persona" and there was a "clear element of exaggeration".
She said her client had suffered the breakdown of a relationship and had large debts.
Ms Owen added: "It was not a case of a pre-planned enterprise to steal. It was Ms Jones' poor emotional state at the time that affected her thinking (and) had a significant impact on her flawed decision-making process. She was in a very deep and dark place."
She said Jones has clinical depression and has a history of self-harm. Her parents, especially her wheelchair using mother, relied on her. If Jones were to be imprisoned it is "almost inevitable" her mother would have to go into residential care.
Ms Owen also said all the money has been paid back to 2Wish.
The judge, Her Honour Nicola Saffman, said the defendant claimed she could speak seven languages, on top of her having a PhD in Sociology as well as her twin sister having died aged five.
She added: "You provided false invoices to the charity in a false name of Sarah Jones."
The judge said Jones had brought the good name of the 2Wish into "disrepute".
"All of this must affect the reputation of that fantastic charity which was set up to help people in their direst and darkest hour. You are a chronic liar and it was an abuse of trust on extremely vulnerable individuals."
Only an immediate prison sentence was deemed appropriate, said the judge.
Jones, of Nebo, admitted fraud by abuse of position and was jailed for 12 months.
After today's sentencing hearing, Detective Sergeant David Hall, of North Wales Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “This was a particularly distressing case to investigate as we had to approach bereaved parents with information which would potentially add to their anguish.
“The actions of Jones were callous in the extreme, preying on the charity who are there to help people in their hour of need."
“I am grateful to the charity for their patience whilst the investigation took its course, the CPS for their work and the witnesses who assisted us in bringing her to justice.”
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