A professional golfer at a historic course was today warned he faces a long prison sentence after he was convicted of defrauding more than £50,000 from it in club green fees and charity golf days.

Steven Hunter was Head Pro at Royal Winchester Golf Club - where membership fees are £1,300 a year - when he under-declared the money paid by visitors to play the course and kept the difference for himself.

A four-week trial heard Hunter was caught out after club staff discovered 'consistent' discrepancies, totalling more than £45,000 over a period of almost two years.

An investigation discovered more than £11,000 in profit from two charity golf days went into Hunter's bank account and less than £50 was given to the charity.

Despite Hunter's defence that he has simply got his maths wrong with the green fees and had used the money from the charity days to pay for the events, a unanimous jury found him guilty of four counts of fraud.

Today at Salisbury Crown Court, Judge Andrew Barnett warned Hunter he was facing prison.

He said: "These frauds that have been uncovered and you have now been found guilty of are extremely serious and the overwhelming likelihood is there will be a long prison sentence."

In all, Hunter was convicted of four out of five counts of fraud.

The trial had heard how the 54 year old married Scot had been working at the golf club, which dates back to 1888, since the late 1980s and ran the club shop through his business Steven Hunter Golf Shops Limited.

READ MORE: Golf pro accused of stealing £50,000 from Royal Winchester Golf Club tells jurors he got his maths wrong

But in July 2018, concerns were raised by club manager Stuart Dubber, after he noticed the green fees takings should have been £3,710 for the previous month when Hunter had only declared £1,075.

Prosecutor Tom Nicholson told the trial Hunter 'abused his position as head pro', was 'misleading, false and deceptive' and 'cheated the tax man'.

He said: "He consistently under reported the green fees paid by visitors to the Royal Winchester Golf Club, keeping the difference when his contract said it was the club's money.

"Mr Dubber started comparing the club's accounts to the visitor book, a laborious process, and he felt the issue repeated itself in previous months.

"Green fees were consistently and considerably lower... 2018 income should have been about £16,000 up to June when the defendant only reported just over £5,000, about 30 per cent of what had actually been paid.

"He took advantage of the trust he had built up, trust he earned as a longstanding member of the club."

The court heard the visitor book was the only one that could be found and only went back to September 2016, however club officials pored over the accounts and cross-referenced with the book to find there had been an underpayment of £44,174 in this period.

Hunter told jurors he was 'totally shocked' when this fraud was uncovered and claimed 'the columns hadn't been added up properly' because he did it in a rush.

Mr Nicholson added: "Two charity golf days were set up in the memory of a long standing member, Les Day. He died in 2014 and the golf days were set up in aid of a specific charity, something he would have liked, called Canine Partners.

"Actually, the defendant simply pocketed the money made at these golf days."

The court heard businesses such as pub chain Greene King and golf brand Mizuno sponsored the pro-am events, attended by local professional golfers, and participants paid to have a round of golf, bacon roll, coffee and a three course meal.

After costs in setting up the events in 2017 and 2018 were taken into account, a profit of £11,141 was made which should have been paid to Canine Partners.

However the court heard the only money paid to the charity was £47.75, which was made from a coin collection at the 2017 event.

In addition Hunter was also found to have 'cheated the public revenue' by claiming VAT on his approximate £30,000 a year retainer salary at the golf club, despite not having the right to do so.

He was also convicted of 'false accounting' when he kept about £60,000 of money from the pro shop in his personal account which he should have kept in his business account for tax purposes.

He was cleared by the jury of one further count of fraud, in which he was accused of lying about his salary to acquire a remortgage of his £1.6million home.

Hunter had argued that he left all the paperwork relating to the mortgage to his accountants.

Summing up the case, Mr Nicholson said Hunter 'abused his position as head pro', was 'misleading, false and deceptive' and 'cheated the tax man'.

Hunter, who now lives in Abbots Worthy, near Winchester, will be sentenced next month.

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