Patrick McLarry, 71, took funds from the pension scheme of Yateley Industries for the Disabled and used it to buy homes in France and Hampshire for himself and his wife and to pay off a personal debt.
At the time of committing the fraud, McLarry was both chief executive and chairman of the charity and a director of VerdePlanet Limited, the corporate trustee of the charity’s pension scheme.
The Pensions Regulator brought the prosecution and is now seeking a confiscation order to force Mr McLarry to hand back all the money he took.
McLarry, of Bere Alston, Devon, admitted one charge of fraud at a previous court hearing but then attempted to change his plea to not guilty.
This week Winchester Crown Court heard that the case was a sophisticated fraud over a number of years against vulnerable victims.
Judge Andrew Barnett said Mr McLarry had acted with dishonesty and breach of trust, adding he had “milked the pension fund of considerable funds, spent entirely for your own needs and your wife.”
Mr McLarry was jailed for five years and banned from being a director for eight years.
Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of Frontline Regulation, said: “Patrick McLarry held himself out as a pillar of the community. We were determined that he should face justice for defrauding pension savers. This sends a clear warning that we will use the full force of our powers and work with partner enforcement agencies to protect pension savers.
“McLarry tried every trick in the book to hide his actions and squander the pension pots of those he was responsible for, but we were able to uncover the truth and bring him to justice.
“We will now work to seize assets from McLarry so that as much of the money as possible is returned to its rightful owners who will rightly rely on it to deliver their pensions in retirement.”
The TPR investigation revealed that prior to VerdePlanet being appointed as the trustee of the scheme, the corporate trustee took the unusual step of amending the scheme’s definitive deed which meant the scheme was unable to pursue McLarry for the funds which he went on to take.
Between March 2012 and February 2013 he arranged for £256,127 to be transferred from the charity pension scheme into bank accounts he controlled.
He used the money to buy a home and a small warehouse in the south of France, a house in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, and repay a debt he owed over the purchase of a pub lease in Portsmouth.
He tried to cover his tracks by forging documents, lying to TPR investigators about who owned the properties involved and then refusing to hand over vital evidence.
The City of London Police Economic Crime Directorate assisted the TPR with the execution of warrants and the search of two premises in July 2018 which secured evidence later used in the successful prosecution of Mr McLarry.