‘Mephedrone Mom’ Anti-drug campaigner avoids jail term after stealing £11k from her own charity
Mary Todd wept in court on Thursday as a judge tore into her “truly shocking” behaviour after she narrowly escaped going to jail for writing dodgy cheques
May 13 2021 07:30 AM
An anti-drug campaigner dubbed the ‘Mephedrone Mom’ has been exposed as a sticky-fingered thief after pocketing £11,000 from her own charity.
Mary Todd wept in court on Thursday as a judge tore into her “truly shocking” behaviour after she narrowly escaped going to jail for writing dodgy cheques.
At Antrim Crown Court Judge Patricia Smyth told the 49-year-old, from Linn Road, Larne, she “deserved to go to jail” but she was only sparing her that fate because of her children.
She also wept on the doorstep when challenged by the Sunday World as to why she had fleeced the drugs charity she had helped found along with other mums in Larne in 2010.
She politely told us: “When you do this story, please remember I have two young children”.
And it emerged in court this wasn’t a one-off as the mum of two had already been convicted of conning a family friend into handing over £25,000 with a fake story about having a sick relative.
In 2010 the Sunday World met Mary Todd and other concerned mums in Larne who were campaigning against the scourge of legal highs.
Legal loopholes had allowed lethal and highly addictive drugs like Mephedrone – a substance similar to MDMA – to be completely legal and a number of young people became seriously ill and some even died as a result.
Todd helped form the group People Against Legals (PAL) which two years later rebranded as Preventing Addiction Larne. https://3586ad3eec8d93cdab73a31369e07f04.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
They picketed local head shops and after similar campaigns across the UK the government introduced legislation making so-called legal highs like Mephedrone illegal.
But Todd, who was the treasurer of the charity, was suspended when she told them about her conviction for the previous fraud of her family friend.
On Thursday morning we approached Todd at her home in the Craigyhill estate in Larne.
We asked if she could explain why she had taken the money from such a much-needed charity.
She said: “Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity to put my side across but I’m going to decline and say no.”
When pushed as to why she had taken the cash she said: “I don’t want to get into it, but I am very sorry.”
Describing the offences by Todd as “truly shocking,” Judge Patricia Smyth told the weeping fraudster that while she deserved to go to prison for 12 months, she had to take account of the medical reports in relation to one of her daughters, adding: “It would not be proportionate to send you to prison.
“I want to make it clear to you that I have read nothing in mitigation that would justify me not sending you to prison – that’s what you deserve,” said the clearly angry judge.
She added: “You are dishonest, you are a fraudster and there’s no excuse for your behaviour… you have avoided prison not because of you or anything to do with you but because of your daughter.”
PAL was the borough’s first centre dedicated to helping people affected by substance misuse, addiction, suicide and self-harm, providing support, guidance and counselling to addicts as well as to families and carers of people who abuse one or more of alcohol, prescription drugs, legal highs or hard drugs.
At an earlier hearing Todd entered a guilty plea to one count of committing fraud by abusing the position she held.
As a result of her confessions, four further forgery offences were “left on the books” but prosecuting counsel Mark Farrell made it clear that Todd was accepting the entirety of the Crown case against her in that she had swindled a total of £11,180.
He outlined that on November 6 2019, a representative of registered charity Prevent Addiction Larne attended Larne PSNI station to report a possible fraud following a request for a report from the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland.
That suspected fraud, he told the court, related to four cheques which had been written out by Todd as the treasurer of the charity to a total of £11,180 and payable to either her former partner who knew nothing of the fraud, or to Todd herself.
“Those cheques were not authorised by the charity and were not for charitable purposes and simply pocketed by the defendant,” said the lawyer, adding that “furthermore, she forged the second signature on the cheques.”
He revealed that Todd “had in fact been removed from her position as treasurer of PAL in January 2019” after she had been charged in relation to another fraud and forgery scheme.
She was later convicted of that fraud and sentenced to 12 months behind bars but it was suspended for three years.
During her sentencing remarks on Thursday, Judge Smyth outlined how Todd claimed to have a “sick family member” and creating forged correspondence to support her claims, she “persuaded the parents of your daughters’ friend” to give her a total of £25,000.
The court was told police believe she may have pinched the charity cash to reimburse that victim.
Defence counsel Michael Boyd said Todd had “exhausted every potential avenue” to gather together £5,500 which she has borrowed from close family to pay the money back.
“She means it when she says she will pay them back but they recognise the peril she was in.”
Judge Smyth accepted Todd had suffered a “difficult childhood” but told her “to think that a charity that gets by, frequently just, on donations from the public and only rarely when grants are available, should be subjected to this type of fraud by its treasurer is a truly shocking situation.”
Labelling her claims at police interview as “lies, nothing short of it,” Judge Smyth said the breach of trust aspect of the case was an aggravating factor as was the fact that Todd’s victim was a charity who had been subjected to “multiple deceptions over a period of time”.
Imposing a 12-month sentence but suspending it for four years, Judge Smyth also made a confiscation order in the sum of £5,500 and warned the fraudster that if she committed any further offences “you can expect to go straight to prison”.