Former Church of England Ops Manager Charged Over Embezzlement To Go Gambling

The fear of having some vengeful deity smite them is usually enough for those working in any position related to religion to avoid illegal activity. There are exceptions, though, such as Martin Sargeant, a former Church of England operations manager who embezzled money to spend on gambling and other frivolities.

Martin Sargeant leaves a courtroom on Friday in London. The former Church of England operations manager faces charges he embezzled funds to gamble and lead a luxury lifestyle. (Image: Express & Star)

Sargeant served as the operations manager for the diocese in London for over 10 years. He entered the position in 2009 and, shortly after, allegedly discovered a way to fleece the church out of millions of dollars.

Beginning in 2009, until he retired in 2019, Sargeant regularly falsified documents that allowed him to ultimately embezzle £5.2 million (US$6.28 million). The church only recently uncovered the fraud, leading to the jet-setting gambler’s arrest and first appearance in court last Friday.

Abuse of Power

With the London diocese, Sargeant facilitated the approval of government-led grant money to churches needing restoration and improvements. However, he allegedly began submitting false claims and redirected the money to his own accounts. On other occasions, he diverted funds that were approved for legitimate claims.

He would first distribute funds into different church-held bank accounts. Then, he would transfer the money into accounts in his own name. That would later prove to be key evidence.

With free access to the money, Sargeant began enjoying a new life. As time went on, it became easier for him to carry out the scheme.

The practice continued for a decade, with no one realizing what was happening. Sargeant spent the money to go gambling, as well as to finance a luxury lifestyle that included multiple trips to different destinations. During his run, he allegedly took over 180 flights as part of his alter ego’s persona.

Sargeant retired in 2019 and may have assumed he had gotten away with his theft. However, officials began looking deeper into its finances and, last year, uncovered a number of irregularities.

As a result, they brought in law enforcement to investigate. That was when everything began falling apart for Sargeant. Finally, this past May, the case came to the surface. It would be two more months, however, before he was formally charged.

End of the Road

Last Friday, Sargeant made his first appearance in court, but remained tight-lipped. The only time he spoke was to confirm his name, date of birth and home address.

The once-respected member of the Church of England now faces multiple charges. Fraud, money laundering, embezzlement and more are on the table. Sargeant didn’t enter a plea as he appeared in court, but the evidence is overwhelmingly against him.

So egregious were his crimes that the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where Sargeant made his appearance, can’t take on the case. Instead, it is sending it to the Crown Court at Southwark. For now, Sargeant will have to stay at home and wait for his day in court on September 2.

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