A Derby man fraudulently claimed more than £50,000 in National Lottery grants to document the history of first-generation Muslims to arrive in the city.
Derby Crown Court heard how Mohammed Usman Ali forged a signature on an application and said he was employing staff to do the research.
But instead, the 47-year-old was moving the cash from a business account into his own.
Ali, of Littleover, at first denied his wrongdoing saying the academic whose signature he forged had made “a false and malicious allegation” against him as he removed him from the project.
But he eventually admitted his crimes by pleading guilty to fraud.
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Handing him a two-year jail term, suspended for 18 months, Judge Shaun Smith QC said: “Four years ago you applied for some lottery money.
“It was in order for a program to look into the heritage of Muslim people (in Derby).
“Your intention from the outset looks like it was to pay yourself rather than hire anybody.
“You did not make that clear and in July 2017 a query was raised about your application, the funding was withdrawn and the police arrested you.”
Gurdial Singh, prosecuting, said Ali, of Repton Avenue, first made the application for a grant in April 2016 through a research company called Benchmark Community Learning.
It said that it was for documenting the history of first-generation Muslims arriving primarily from Pakistan and settling in Derby city centre.
Mr Singh said he was handed an initial sum of £28,200 and the project began.
But when he applied for additional funds in July 2017 an academic who was helping Ali became aware his signature had been used by the defendant and he reported it.
Mr Singh said: “The police became involved and it was discovered along with the forged signature it was claimed £31,400 had been paid out for someone’s salary but no such payment was made.
“The defendant claimed he had put out job adverts but no-one had applied and so the money went into his own account.
“There was also a fraudulent invoice for £3,000 for items that the money claimed had been paid but had not.”
Mr Singh said in initial interviews Ali denied forging the academic’s signature.
He said: “He said the entire allegation was false and malicious because the academic had been dismissed.”
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The hearing was told that Ali was hospitalised after his arrest for two months and was diagnosed with mental health issues from which he is now recovering well.
The total value of the fraud was £50,760 and with interest, the defendant has been ordered to pay back a total of £54,449.10 in the next three months.
Justin Ablott, mitigating, said his client has carried out work on the project which can be found online.
He said: “He paid himself for the work and he will put his family in a considerably worse position paying the money back and the money is equity he has in property.”