Haulage firm's scam left British Heart Foundation £23k out of pocket
THE British Heart Foundation was left more than £23,000 out of pocket after it paid out false invoices submitted by sacked haulage contractors.
The error was not spotted by the charity and large sums were paid to a transport company long after its contract had been terminated, a court heard.
Simon George, 28, of Daubney Street, Cleethorpes, admitted a charge of acquiring criminal property – the property being £23,100 in cash that had been stolen from the charity – between December 30, 2010 and September 28, 2011.
Jeremy Evans, prosecuting, told Grimsby Crown Court that George set up a self-employed haulage business, called M and S Deliveries, with Martyn Drewitt in October 2009.
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They transported goods between BHF shops and customers, and operated over large areas of the north, including Liverpool, Leeds, Hull and Lincoln.
They billed the charity for services carried out but, after complaints about their work, their employment was terminated.
However, invoices continued to be sent to the BHF’s accounts department and these were paid. A blank invoice book had not been returned when the employment ceased.
The amounts on these invoices, described in court as “false” because no work had actually been done, were paid into the M and S Deliveries business account in January, February, March and April, 2011.
“The error was simply not spotted,” said Mr Evans.
He told the court that the Crown Prosecution Service had taken the decision not to prosecute Mr Drewitt, 36, who is from the Grimsby area, even though he was “equally responsible for pulling money out of the account”.
Mr Evans admitted that this decision was “difficult to understand”.
George claimed he withdrew individual sums of £1,500, £2,900, £10,700 and two lots of £4,000, making a total of £23,100, after he was given a bank card and personal identification number by Mr Drewitt.
George claimed he acted under the direction of Mr Drewitt and, although he was suspicious, did not press the matter further.
He claimed he returned the card to Mr Drewitt and that he personally received only £3,000 of the withdrawn cash.
Mr Evans told the court that George’s guilty plea was on this basis and that it had been accepted by the prosecution at an earlier hearing.
Craig Lowe, mitigating, said George claimed he “assisted” Mr Drewitt five times over a period of about three months by withdrawing the money.
After his work with the company ceased, George was unemployed and in “financial straits” and was having to spend money travelling to see his son in Sheffield.
The money was spent on general living expenses and not a lavish lifestyle, said Mr Lowe.
Recorder Paul Miller told George: “It caused a substantial loss to what is a charitable institution and one in which you had been an employee.
“There’s a breach of trust here. Strangely, Mr Drewitt hasn’t faced the criminal justice system.”
George was given a nine-month suspended prison sentence and 160 hours’ unpaid work.
No compensation was ordered because of George’s financial position.
“The British Heart Foundation will have its civil remedies if it’s thought worthwhile,” said Recorder Miller.
After the hearing, a BHF spokesman said the charity would now consider what its next step would be in the matter.
But he added that the lost money would have been enough to cover the cost of 20 life-saving defibrillators and the associated training.