Business rates officer jailed for defrauding council

8 Feb 19

A Rochdale Borough Council worker has been jailed for using his job to defraud the local authority of £80,000. 

Matthew Ravey, a business rates officer, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud and one count of theft and was sentenced to 18 months in prison this week, Greater Manchester Police said.  

In 2016, a colleague looked into a business rates refund processed by Ravey after noticing it by chance and found he had applied a period of empty property relief totalling £4,000 on a company which had been dissolved two years prior.

He created a new bank account and creditor address associated with the business that in fact belonged to accomplices Richard Rigby and Andrew Foster.

An internal investigation by the council found that Ravey had altered banking and addresses of other businesses to make 26 separate fraudulent transfers between January 2015 and June 2016.

There were seven transfers to Michael Frames – an NHS employee - of just under £15,000, who used his NHS email account to arrange the fraud.

Two payments totalling £3,724 were made to Jason Hurst, who later admitted to spending the money on cocaine and prostitutes.

Ravey’s work computer was also found to contain fraudulent insolvency documents.

Detective Constable Sarah Langley of Greater Manchester Police’s fraud disruption team, said: “Ravey imagined himself as some sort of criminal mastermind who’d concocted a fool-proof plan to get rich while avoiding his debtors.

“But frankly, the decision to use his employer’s email address to orchestrate it was one of many frankly bizarre factors in his ill-considered scam.

“Let’s not forget this was public money. Everyone – not least taxpayers in Rochdale – should be disgusted by his actions.”

A council spokesperson said: “This was a serious breach of trust from a former council employee who has let down the council and his colleagues.

“We take any allegation of fraud seriously and this matter was immediately reported to the police after our robust procedures uncovered evidence of criminal behaviour.

“Through a zero tolerance approach, we will always take action to ensure that justice is done and this was underlined by this successful prosecution.” 

The sentences handed out to Ravey’s accomplices were: 

  • Michael Frames pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering and was sentenced to complete 100 hours unpaid work.
  • Andrew Foster pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering and was sentenced to complete 54 hours unpaid work.
  • At a separate hearing on February 4, Richard Rigby pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering and was sentenced to 64 hours of unpaid work.
  • Jason Hurst was sentenced on November 2018 to complete 100 hours unpaid work after pleading guilty to one count of theft.

In a blog for PF Rob Whiteman, CIPFA chief executive, discussed how artificial intelligence can be used to target fraud.

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