Treasurer at Gosport autistic children's charity Marvels & Meltdowns admits ‘betrayal’ in £4,000 fraud

A CHARITY trustee has ‘betrayed’ her colleagues after secretly siphoning off more than £4,000 from funds meant to help children with autism.

Devastated members of Marvels and Meltdowns, based in Gosport, have been left picking up the pieces after co-founder and treasurer Tricia Lyons, 39, was caught helping herself to the money.

Fellow founding member Shandrika Day revealed she was left heartbroken when she uncovered the fraud in March last year after she and manager Nikki Martin found discrepancies in the accounts.

Both mums had clubbed together to set up the specialist charity after spotting a lack of support for children with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Tricia Lyons, the disgraced former treasurer at the charity who has admitted taking more than £4,000 in a fraud between 2016-2020. Picture: Sarah Standing (180582-243)

But now Lyons, of Cornwell Close, Gosport, has appeared in court where she admitted fraud by abuse of position between April 12, 2016, and February 24, 2020 involving £4,135.

She quit with ‘no explanation’ when challenged on the day the money was found to be missing, and trustees alerted police and the Charity Commission.

Shandrika told The News she was ‘numb’ at first finding the money missing and some service users no longer attend because of the loss of trust.

The charity’s lease for its Phoenix Way home, rented out by Gosport Borough Council, had also been under threat.

Left, Shandrika Day, co-founder of Marvels and Meltdowns. Right, Tricia Lyons the disgraced former treasurer at the charity who has admitted taking more than £4,000 in a fraud between 2016-2020. Picture: Sarah Standing (180582-243)

Accounts filed to the Charity Commission and seen by The News say the fraud was linked to unexplained cash withdrawals, and some expenditure was listed without receipts to back up the spend.

Shandrika said: I was numb – in disbelief and heartbroken, absolutely heartbroken.

‘She was a huge part of my life, I spent more awake time with her running the charity than I did my husband – it absolutely broke me.

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Shandrika Day, left, and Tricia Lyons announce the opening of the M&M Centre in 2017. Picture: Mike Cooter

‘The hardest bit – there was a lot of money taken from the charity but that’s only money – was the complete and utter betrayal to myself, the volunteers, the service users and those organisations and people who supported us over the years.

‘I’m fortunate that many of those have got back behind us and still support the charity , but it had had a detrimental effect.

‘There are some service users who no longer use the charity because of what happened.

‘There are potentially some pots of funding we’ve not been able to tap into and we nearly lost the building.’

Gosport’s council has since been satisfied the charity can meet its requirements.

Shandrika said there are 1,500 people signed up online and around 20 a families a week can be supported in the charity’s building, due to open in September.

Volunteers have ‘stuck to us like glue,’ Shandrika said, and vowed that the charity will continue.

‘It’s not an option not to,’ she said. ‘The people who need the support aren’t going to go away just because this has happened.

‘We need to keep going – we’re not going anywhere.’

She added: ‘It was an utter shock to myself and then I had to break the news to the volunteers.

‘It’s taken 18 months – we’ve managed to pick up the pieces and now it’s in the court’s hands. Hopefully when she’s sentenced it will be what she deserved.

‘As a charity we’ve picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves off and restored the charity back to its former glory.’

Lyons was released on bail ahead of her September 13 sentencing.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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