The disgraced verger of a Solihull church has been jailed for running up #127,000 of debts through loans and credit cards he had taken out in his wife's name.
Ian Mitchell's spiral of deception, caused as his debts got out of hand, came crashing down when his wife found documents relating to one of the cards as Mitchell (pictured above) was leaving their home after confessing to an affair.
Arrangements are in hand to sell the family home, on which there is an equity of #125,000. They also have a #250,000 holiday home in Portugal.
Mitchell's share of the sale will be enough to cover the #55,000 he still owes, having already paid off the loans.
At Warwick Crown Court yesterday, Mitchell (64), of Highwood Avenue, Olton, Solihull, was jailed for 15 months after admitting seven charges of deception and five of using false instruments.
Sentencing him, Judge Marten Coates told Mitchell: "I understand that for you this is a dreadful position to be in, but quite often this sort of offence is committed by people who have the sort of mitigation you have.
"I take that into account, but at a time your marriage was on a downward slope you committed these offences over a two- year period and defrauded financial institutions out of #127,000. I have to pass a custodial sentence."
Gerald Bermingham, prosecuting, said Mitchell, the verger of St Alphege's's church in Solihull, and his wife Eleanor had been married for 35 years.
"But on Monday the 29th of August the marriage broke down when he told her he was having an affair with another woman at the church," said Mr Bermingham.
She asked him to leave, and as he was preparing to go she saw him trying to dispose of some paperwork in the dustbin. She found it related to a Marbles credit card he had obtained in her name without her knowledge, and when she challenged him about it Mitchell said he had done it because he could not get one in his own name.
Mr Bermingham said an investigation revealed Mitchell had no fewer than 13 cards in his own name, all of which had been used up to their limit for a total of #55,500.
He had taken out a number of credit cards and loans in his wife's name, on which he owed balances of up to #8,000, without her knowledge.
Mitchell had also "removed" #49,500 of the #60,000 in a unit bond account his wife had set up for her mother. When he was arrested in September, he made full admissions, said Mr Bermingham, adding: "The total sum, in one way or another, is #127,000."
Catherine Spedding, defending, said that as the verger at St Alphege's, Mitchell had been a man of "positive good character" who had helped a number of people, and when people heard he was "retiring" he received many letters thanking him.
"These matters came about as a result of honest borrowing because he had taken out a credit card in his own name some ten years ago, but as a result he then took out further finance, and things spiralled out of control," she said.
"He was not able to borrow further on his own name, so borrowed on his wife's name. It spiralled out of control."
Miss Spedding said Mitchell "disputes there was any affair involved in the break-up of the relationship".
Asking the judge to suspend any sentence on the grounds of Mitchell's "exceptional circumstances", she said he had handled large amounts of money at the church and never resorted to the temptation of taking it.