Former March ATC leader admits fraud, theft and dishonesty charges

FORMER March ATC leader Michael Eke has admitted that he used a forged nomination form to get his MBE – which he received from the Queen three years ago. Thirty-eight-year-old Eke  has also admitted obtaining thousands of pounds of lottery money from Awa

FORMER March ATC leader Michael Eke has admitted that he used a forged nomination form to get his MBE - which he received from the Queen three years ago.

Thirty-eight-year-old Eke has also admitted obtaining thousands of pounds of lottery money from Awards for All by deception, falsifying ATC invoices, and obtaining printed brochures for RAF music by falsely claiming that his employers, Cambridgeshire police, had authorised payment.

Eke, who appeared at Norwich Crown Court on Tuesday, has also pleaded guilty to giving false information to get his job as a civilian with the police, stealing thousands of pounds worth of computers and cameras from the police, and stealing candles from the police.

In all, he has admitted 14 charges involving fraud, theft and dishonesty.

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The charges he has admitted are:

*Using a false instrument. Between January 28 2002 and November 7 2003 he used a Cabinet Office nomination for a UK national honour form, which he knew was false, with the intent ion of inducing Eleri Pengelly to accept it as genuine.

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*Obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception. Between October 12 2001 and January 4 2002 he gave false information to Cambridgeshire police in an application for a civilian post.

*Obtaining property by deception. Between March 11 2003 and November 30 2003 he dishonestly obtained from Lodge Printers at Upton, brochures entitled "RAF Music - Supporting Events around the World" valued at £1,512 by falsely representing that Cambridgeshire Constabulary had authorised the printing and payment.

*Theft by employee. Stole two laptop computers worth £2,126 from Cambridgeshire Constabulary between January 7 and 12 2004.

*Theft by employee. Stole four laptop computers and carry cases belonging to Cambridgeshire Constabulary valued at £2,935 on June 29 2004.

*Theft by employee. Stole two laptop computers from Cambridgeshire Constabulary worth £1,407.65 between January 24 and 29 2005.

* Theft by employee. Stole two digital cameras valued at £271.40 from Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

*Theft by employee. Stole a quantity of Shearer candles from Cambridgeshire Constabulary between January 2 2002 and December 26 2004.

*Dishonestly obtaining a money transfer by deception. Dishonestly obtained from Awards for All, a money transfer in the sum of £3,894, by falsely representing that the 1220 (March) ATC were organising an arts festival to celebrate the jubilee.

*Obtaining a money transfer by deception. Dishonestly obtained from Awards for All a money transfer for £4,500 by deception, by falsely representing that the Reveille Band Group was a new youth marching band, John Springett was the vice-president, and he and Clive Lemmon were the account signatories and Bernard Keane was the independent referee for the application.

*Dishonestly obtaining a money transfer by deception. He dishonestly obtained from Awards for All a money transfer in the sum of £4,900 by deception, by falsely claiming that March Tattoo 2004 would be a non profit making event, the treasurer and signatory on the bank account was Paul Hayes, Bernard Keane was the independent referee and Wendy Godfrey signed the contract.

*Using a false instrument. Used two invoices from C and G Coaches at Chatteris, both for £150, which he knew were false, with the intention of inducing March ATC to accept them as genuine, between January1 2003 and March 16 2004.

*Using a false instrument. Use an invoice from P Davey and Son dated March 11 2003, for £7,720, which he knew were false, with the intention of inducing March ATC to accept it as genuine.

*Using a false instrument. Between October 16 and December 10 2004 dishonestly obtained from Awards for All a money transfer for £3460 by deception, by falsely claiming that the Arts Society would provide a non profit making event for the community. Paul Hayes was the treasurer and a signatory on the bank account, Rev Tony Jarvis was the independent referee and Wendy Godfrey signed the contract.

The sentencing of Eke, of Plover Drive, March, was adjourned until October 3 for a pre-sentence report to be prepared, and his bail was extended.

His Honour Judge Paul Downes agreed that three more charges previously denied by Eke, two involving the forgery of his mother's will one involving obtaining printed goods by deception, should lie on file.

MICHAEL EKE - Background

# For 23 years he had been a member of the 1220 (March) Squadron ATC, rising to become squadron leader. For 14 of those years he was the squadron commander

# In recent years he had played an increasingly prominent part in town affairs, organising the March Tattoo, Jubilee celebrations and annual carnival parades. In 1996 the squadron was given the Freedom of March.

# In 2003 he was awarded an MBE

# His squadron also provided cadets for the March Remembrance Day commemoration: it was after the 2004 service that he tendered his resignation.

# Eke, who lives with his life Lisa and two children, was arrested in February last year and bailed pending further inquiries.

# He was suspended from his job in the store rooms at Cambs Police Headquarters but in July the force announced he had sacked.

# In June 2004, rewarded for his "tireless devotion to community work" when chosen to join 139 other including Sir Roger Bannister and triple jumper Jonathan Edwards, carrying the Olympic flame on one leg of its 78 world-wide journey

# His mother, Barbara, whose will he was later to be accused for forging, died in July last year, aged 71. Her husband, John, predeceased her, and besides Michael she left a daughter, Beryl, and two other sons, Steven and Ian. A fourth son, Peter, also predeceased her.

# CLIVE Lemmon, March Town Clerk, said: "Now that Michael Eke has admitted his guilt, I can say for the first time how disappointed the whole community is with him.

"In a sense by pleading guilty, it has denied the whole truth coming out as to exactly what did happen, how it happened, and when it happened. Perhaps we will never know why it happened."

Mr Lemmon said the town would be disappointed, too, that a person looked up to by many - including the young people in the ATC- had let everyone down so badly.

Mr Lemmon said he had worked alongside Eke for many years, particularly on the March Summer Festival Committee, and there had been never any cause to doubt his integrity.

"There was no reason to think he should be dishonest," said Mr Lemmon. "We accepted him at face value."

# FAMILY man, devoted youth worker, and with a passion for community work that embraced everything from celebrations marking the Queen's Jubilee to organising the town's annual Remembrance Day celebrations.

Not once did the residents of March ever have cause to doubt Michael Eke's commitment or his honesty . They may have raised an eyebrow or too about his self aggrandisement, but many thought it a small price to pay for getting things done.

And during his 14 years as a squadron leader in the local Air Training Corps, Eke certainly did that.

For years it seemed that the 'Eke touch' was everywhere you looked, and backed by an ever expanding ATC few were surprised by his being awarded the MBE for his services to the community.

The crunch, when it came, seemed only a minor hiccup at the time to his thrusting ambitions. Internal rivalries within the ATC prompted an inquiry, and the RAF sent one of their top brass to March in the summer of 2004 to study the accounts.

It began a chain of events that culminated in Eke resigning from the ATC on Remembrance Sunday, 2004, claiming to have been "a victim of my own success."

He claimed he had been driven out by "an internal hate campaign with anonymous letters stating that they would not rest until I was out of command. After four stressful weeks I decided that something had to give in order for a new officer to come in and take the reigns of command and allow the young cadets to enjoy the benefits of being in the ATC."

Not once did Eke, in his resignation letter, hint at what the inquiry had found, but it was later revealed the RAF had found "clear evidence that squadron accounting records were not being maintained in accordance with ATC procedures."

The devastating indictment of Eke accused him of having "disregard to laid down practice of welfare and non welfare funding."

These, said the official findings, "were not only a serious infraction of your responsibility as an officer commanding but also led to a time consuming investigating involving other members of wing and region and HQ staff."

In short he had been rumbled, with the RAF being adamant that irregularities in the ATC's affairs at March stemmed from the opening of a bank account into which Eke had funnelled monies raised by the public to replace instruments stolen in a raid on their headquarters.

There was also a question mark over £10,000 handed to the ATC in March of 2004 from a community chest award run by BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and the county council.

The RAF inquiry, however, was interesting for two reasons: firstly it was Eke's decision to leave and not their decision to sack him.

And secondly the RAF had decided Eke should be placed on a form of probation for two years "during which time your conduct as an RAF officer will be under scrutiny." They passed it off as a "formal warning" after reminding him that his "blatant non compliance with normal civilian committee working practices and your cavalier attitude with regard top the financial powers of a squadron commander were detrimental to properly regulated functions of welfare fund administration."

Eke was moved to tell the local press at the time: "I have not misappropriated a penny. Everybody who knows me knows that."

He left, blaming "jealous committee members" for his downfall, and protesting that his MBE - and a commendation from the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire- vindicated the work he had done.

So far as Eke was concerned, his decision to resign on Remembrance Day came after his branch officials refused to buy the cadets soup, rolls and chocolate bars either before or after that day's parade.

"With the amount of work they do, I thought this a reasonable request," he said later. "They said no, and I thought then that this was it. Every time there was now aggravation over everything.

"The following day I got all the cadets together and told them I would resigning from the ATC. I went to the headquarters in Cambridge with my RAF ID card and my resignation letter and handed it over personally because I could not take, physically, any more aggravation or abuse."

He described how he felt "totally gutted" by giving up the ATC, and said he considered at one stage pursing a grievance complaint through the RAF.

"I was devastated to think that I had given 14 years of my life to this," he said. "It was three or four nights a week, weekends as well, and you don't get paid for it.

"I did it to invest in the youth of today."

But even as his resignation came and went, there were few who doubted Eke was guilty of anything other than foolhardiness in not allowing proper access to financial records he often kept personally.

His denial of any wrong doing was absolute and categoric, and very quickly the ATC recovered, a new commander brought in and the old committee refreshed.

But as Christmas approached in 2004, rumours began circulating that Eke's plausible account of his departure, and his professed naiveté over funding issues, was giving way to a more probing inquiry.

The RAF suddenly announced they had refused to accept his resignation, telling him instead he had been suspended while more inquiries were made.

Questions began surfacing over the much wider sums Eke had access to, and how that money had been accounted for, and spent.

And it soon became apparent he had lied over a co-signatoree on one of the bank accounts, alleging the man had left the area when in fact he was discovered living in Chatteris and denied having spoken to Eke for five years!

Even at the height of the furore, however, Eke refused to admit any wrongdoing, heading off to Huntingdon, for example, in the midst of the inquiry to compere a show for the RAF Benevolent Fund.

But the chain of events were to unfold further when, in January 2005, police decided to have a look at the case, particularly as Eke was employed by them at the time in the stores section at police headquarters in Huntingdon.

He was later suspended, and in July last year while still on police bail, was officially sacked by Cambs Police.

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