A SCAM worth more than £450,000 at charity set up to help people find work which actually contributed to the loss of 23 jobs has resulted in prison sentence for three fraudsters.

Joanne Mounter, 47, of Minister Court in Willington, Crook; Kym Norman, 53, of Stratford Avenue in Grangetown, Sunderland; and Paula Bolan, 45, of Lonsdale in Birtley, near Chester-le-Street, were former employees of Team Wearside.

The Sunderland-based charity helped people seeking employment by offering training opportunities to gain qualifications needed in the workplace.

Mounter and Bolan abused their positions as chief executives of Team Wearside to falsify learning records in order to claim funding from the Skills Funding Agency via Sunderland College and another charity called Springboard.

The total value of the fraud was in excess of £450,000 and was a contributing factor to the charity, Team Wearside, having to close its doors on February 16 which resulted in the final 23 members of staff losing their jobs.

Detective Sergeant Jane Bowran, from Northumbria Police, said: “This crime has had such a wide-reaching and damaging impact with many people losing their jobs.

“Mounter and Bolan, assisted by Norman, abused their position of trust within Team Wearside for their own financial gain and have been brought to justice for their actions.”

The trio were sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court on Wednesday.

Mounter pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud and was sentenced to four years and four months imprisonment.

Norman pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and was sentenced to two years four months imprisonment.

Bolan pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud and was sentenced to four years and four months imprisonment.

Ellen Thinnesen, principal and chief executive of Sunderland College, said: “We are deeply disappointed by the actions of individuals we had grown to trust and who were in an equally trusted position at Team Wearside, a charitable organisation that has done so much good work for the young people of Sunderland and North-East at large.

“These were people we had worked with for a number of years, whose work was regularly appraised, as all of our subcontractors work is, but who had, between them, devised a well-orchestrated scheme that sought to purposely deceive and defraud a number of organisations they worked with.

“We are pleased this matter is now resolved and been handled appropriately by the authorities.”

David Barker MBE, chief executive of Springboard, said: “Like the other organisations that have fallen victim to this fraud, we were shocked and disappointed to discover we had been deceived in this way.

“We have a relationship spanning many years with Team Wearside and they have long been a valued partner, so the actions of those involved are all the more regrettable.”