A criminal gang from Leamington who stole more than £1 million from organisations including charities have been jailed for a total of 18-and-a-half years.
Dean Haer, 28, Momonu Ajibade, 31, Lee McColl, 27, Warwick Kirkwood, 29, and Sharon Downes, 35, – all of Leamington Spa – were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud at Birmingham Crown Court on June 27.
Haer and Ajibade were jailed for five years while McColl, Kirkwood and Downes will all serve two-and-half years
Kulbinder Rai, 34, of Warwick, will be sentenced at a later date.
The gang attempted to defraud public bodies of £1.8m, of which £478K was attempted fraud against the NHS.
The gang operated by contacting NHS Trusts who were advertising vacancies in health magazines and journals. Gang members would pose as employees of bogus publications, which had names similar to genuine publications, and attempt to obtain signed orders reproducing the adverts in their own publications.
Forms that requested a signature to approve the advert’s content were faxed to NHS Trusts – but these were in fact booking forms.
Once signed and returned, NHS Trusts would receive an invoice demanding payment.
The bogus publications included titles such as ’Best Medical Jobs’, ‘Hospital Sector Jobs’ and ’Nursing Tomorrow’.
NHS Protect received information on these activities and so alerted NHS Trusts to the threat posed by the gang and issued fraud prevention toolkits to counter fraud specialists.
This played a significant part in preventing thousands of pounds worth of fraud.
NHS Protect investigators were then able to piece together the extent of the gang’s activities, the value of the fraud and the number of NHS Trusts targeted.
NHS Protect obtained over 100 witness statements from NHS Trusts across the country that had been contacted by the gang.
These statements covered more than 200 attempts by the gang to try and defraud NHS Trusts by false representation.
This evidence was passed to Warwickshire Police who then charged the defendants with conspiracy to defraud in relation to the mis-selling of advertising.
Mick Hayes, Anti Fraud Lead, said “This gang attempted to defraud NHS Trusts of thousands of pounds through a sustained campaign of misrepresentation and mis-selling.
“This was a serious crime and the custodial sentence should act as warning to those who intend to defraud the NHS”.
Acting Det Sgt Hema Chauhan, who led the three year investigation for Warwickshire Police, said:
“This was a particularly difficult investigation because of the number of victims, rogue companies and defendants involved. I am extremely pleased that justice has been served for the 1,000 plus victims, most of whom were unaware of the fraud until they were contacted.
“A strong message has been sent out from Warwickshire Police and all governmental agencies involved that we will robustly investigate all criminality.”