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Museum boss embezzled £19,000 from charity with fake invoices

William Bound was caught out when he returned laptops to the charity that sacked him and incriminating evidence was recovered.

William Bound embezzled almost £19,000 from Groam House Museum. Images: Groam House Museum
William Bound embezzled almost £19,000 from Groam House Museum. Images: Groam House Museum

The former boss of a “renowned” Highland museum embezzled almost £19,000 from the charity that runs it.

William Bound, also known as Bill Bound, issued fake invoices to Groam House Museum, which paid for fictitious work that was never carried out over a three-year period.

But the dishonest 74-year-old – who was the charity’s chair and treasurer during the crime spree – was actually paying the money into several of his own bank accounts.

Bound was originally charged with taking £56,363.50 between November 2013 and October 2016 but later pled guilty to stealing the lesser sum of £18,922.50.

Inquiries made by his legal defence caused the case to be delayed for four years before Bound finally faced justice in the dock at Inverness Sheriff Court.

William Bound was eventually voted out of his roles at the charity. Image: Groam House Museum

Fiscal depute Susan Love told the court that the museum, a charity, opened its Rosemarkie premises in 1990 to display historically important Celtic and Pictish artefacts.

Ms Love said it housed the collection of Celtic art teacher George Bain, which is officially recognized as being of national significance.

She added: “The museum has a turnover of around £35,000 a year but relied on government and outer agency support, as well as fundraising, public donations and income, up to £100,000.

“Over the years, it has had between three to seven board members, including William Bound between 2011 and 2016. He held the posts of chairman and treasurer,” Ms Love explained.

She added that they were voluntary roles, although expenses would have been reimbursed.

“After he moved on, an examination of the accounts revealed financial irregularities,” she said.

“Monies had been paid into his own accounts and he created false invoices for the sums which he considered he was due.”

Defence advocate David Nicolson said his client had no previous convictions and a background report would be required before he is sentenced.

‘Pretty p***** off’

The current chair of Groam House Museum Doug Maclean told the Press and Journal he felt “pretty p***** off” that the Crown accepted Bound’s guilty plea to embezzling a smaller sum of money than he was originally accused.

“He ran the museum into the ground,” Mr Maclean said. “When we eventually got rid of him, he’d run the museum down to having zero in the bank.

“There were direct debits that were returned unpaid by the bank because there wasn’t enough money in the account.”

Mr Maclean explained that before Bound’s crooked ways were uncovered by charity officials, its board of directors had become unhappy with his management style and “voted him out of office”.

He added: “He was in the odd position that he was the chairman of the board, he was treasurer and he was also secretary.

“Basically, everything went through him. We just weren’t getting the financial information.

“It’s very bad practice. The constitution at the time didn’t specifically ban it but our new constitution does.”

Deleted files found after laptops returned

After Bound was forced to step down from his positions and leave the charity altogether, he returned three laptops that belonged to the museum, Mr Maclean said.

“We didn’t have any suspicion at that stage that there was anything untoward in the finances. We knew that we were in a poor financial position but we didn’t know why.

“When I was then looking at what was on the laptops, I noticed there were suspicious invoices sitting in the trash folder, which he had obviously tried to delete.

“We investigated further and uncovered a whole range of suspicious invoices supposedly submitted by two museum consultants.

“I’d been on the board for three years by that time and I had no knowledge of any consultants.”

Google searches of who the two people were didn’t turn up any results.

And when the charity investigated an Edinburgh address quoted on the invoices they made a shocking discovery.

‘They were obviously fictitious’

“When we checked it out, it turned out to be occupied by a person who had lived there for over 10 years and had no knowledge whatsoever of the two individuals,” Mr Maclean said.

“We couldn‘t account for any of the work that they had supposedly done.

“There was one invoice for a day when they were supposedly in the museum doing work on the same day that I was actually in the museum doing work and there was no one there apart from me.

“They were obviously fictitious. We never did find out where the money was going and we’ve never had it back.”

The charity said that Bound claimed the two consultants had both gone to Australia and couldn’t be traced – a position he has maintained ever since he was caught out.

Bound, a retired Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander, has held a number of senior non-executive director posts, according to a LinkedIn social media profile.

It lists appointments as chair of Scottish Government bodies.

Speaking about the lengthy wait for Bound’s conviction, Mr Maclean said: “I’m just annoyed that he’s delayed it. He always had excuses. He’s dragged it out since 2016.

“I have asked the fiscal whether the sheriff could require that he repays the money to the museum. They haven’t come back to me on that yet.”

Sheriff Sara Matheson deferred sentencing Bound, of Ballyskelly House, Poyntzfield, Dingwall, until May 18 and continued his bail in the meantime.

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