A former British Army Major has been ordered to pay more than £145,000 after defrauding a cadet force to fund his ‘spiraling’ gambling addiction.
Major Thomas Meggison repeatedly raided the bank account of the cadets he was in charge of for 18 months to pay off his own debts and hide his gambling habit from his wife, a court heard.
As a result of this ‘detrimental fraud’ from their executive officer, the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Army Cadet Force had to curtail their youngsters’ activities due to a lack of funds.
The 62-year-old made more than 30 payments to himself and even paid an £8,000 deposit on a home for his son and daughter-in-law.
A judge at Winchester Crown Court ruled the Iraq war veteran must now pay the huge sum back in three months or face three years in prison.
Major Thomas Meggison (pictured) repeatedly raided the cadets’ bank account he was in charge of over an 18-month period to pay off his own debts and hide his gambling habit from his wife, a court heard
In June, the disgraced ex-Army officer appeared at Winchester Crown Court and pleaded guilty to one count of fraud by abuse of position. He escaped jail time, instead being handed a 21 month suspended sentence.
Now, he has appeared again for a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing and was told he must repay £145,543.46.
The veteran – who wept in the dock throughout proceedings – was also ordered to complete 200 hours unpaid work.
Judge Adam Feest KC told Major Meggison that it must be paid within three months, and any default on the payment would result in a three-year prison sentence.
Winchester Crown Court heard the former officer – who served with The Rifles regiment – retired in 2008 after more than three decades service with the Army.
He was then appointed to the paid position of chief executive officer of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Army Cadet Force, based in Winchester.
The court heard that his online gambling problem began in 2016, after which it ‘spiralled’ and in 2018 he started using the cadet force account to pay off his debts.
Prosecutor Matthew Lawson previously said: ‘Force accounts were required to have two signatures, but when another account executive retired, he was the sole person in charge.
‘He rang the bank to remove the other signatory, and within a month he began using the account to make himself payments.
‘Thirty six payments were made to his personal account and used to pay for gambling debts. They started in November 2018 and lasted until his arrest in June 2020.
‘He took £102,699 in total.’
Winchester Crown Court heard the former officer – who served with The Rifles regiment – retired in 2008 after more than three decades service with the Army
The court heard the veteran even sent money to his son and daughter in law – who had no idea where the money had come from – to help them buy a house.
Mr Lawson added: ‘In March, he made an £8,000 transfer to his son and daughter in law for a house deposit. They had no knowledge of where the money had come from.
‘His assets were frozen and he was interviewed by police. He later made full and frank admissions.’
In a victim impact statement, Theresa Farmer, an administration officer for the cadet force, said: ‘This was a complete abuse of position.
‘It’s had a detrimental impact on the unit and many young persons’ lives.
‘We reduced our activities over the summer months. It will take five to six years to recover financially.’
Nick Tucker, defending, said: ‘He’s repaid about £9,000 and he has £36,000 in savings accounts to use. He has been working as a delivery driver to earn the money.
‘The Rifles Regiment are willing to loan him the money to repay the cadet force.
‘One way or another this must be paid back.
‘He joined the Army in 1977 at the age of 16. He has 31 years of service.
‘At one point he was quartermaster of 4 Rifles while deployed in Iraq. He was in charge of £80 million worth of of equipment.
‘The Army has been his life. His addiction began to spiral in 2016 when he started online gambling.
‘He knew his wife would notice if money was coming out of their shared account.
‘His arrest came as a relief to him. His shame is total.’
Judge Adam Feest KC told Major Meggison (pictured) that it must be paid within three months, and any default on the payment would result in a three-year prison sentence
As he gave a character witness to the court, retired Lieutenant Colonel Peter Balls OBE said: ‘[Meggison’s] came as a complete shock across the Rifles regiment.
‘Addiction is not uncommon in former soldiers.’
As he sentenced the veteran, Judge Paul Dugdale told him: ‘You’ve let the cadets down more than anyone else.
‘It engenders a belief [amongst young recruits] that this is how one behaves.
‘You’ve caused great upset to [the regiment]. This sort of breach of trust is very serious.’
The judge also said ‘picking up addictions is something to which a number of veterans are very prone’ and that ‘gambling is a very dangerous activity and needs to be regulated’.