Stolen funds returned to NHS

5 Apr 19

An NHS trust was repaid £1.2m after a major fraud against UK public bodies, the NHS Counter Fraud Authority has disclosed.

Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust received the funds under the Proceeds of Crime Act, while other trusts that fell foul of fraudsters were also refunded.

Operation Tarlac, led by Lincolnshire Police Economic Crime Unit and assisted by the NHSCFA, uncovered a scam by a group which defrauded £12m from various public bodies including NHS trusts, councils and housing associations.

The operation was launched in September 2011 after the Lincolnshire trust complained when a £1.28m payment to a building firm went missing.

The fraudsters used forged letters, emails and faxes to masquerade as a legitimate firm and divert payments to themselves.

North Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust was handed £289,219 and Tees, Esk & Wear NHS Foundation Trust has received £216,584 under POCA.

One fraudster, Bayo Awonorin, was sentenced in January this year to nine years and six months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to launder money.

He fled the UK while on bail but was tracked down in the US by Lincolnshire Police and extradited.

Another conspirator, Walter Wagbatsoma, was sentenced to three-and-a-half-years imprisonment in January 2018, after being detained in Germany on a European arrest warrant.

One conspirator still remains at large, but was convicted in his absence in April 2017 and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment.

Sue Firth, interim chief executive at NHSCFA, said: “These recoveries for the NHS, and the original investigation, are good examples of how NHS counter fraud work helps to curb crimes against the taxpayer even beyond the NHS.”

Mike Billam, of Lincolnshire Police Economic Crime Unit, said: “Recovering the stolen funds has always been a key objective in this investigation and so I am particularly pleased that LPFT has now received the full value of their loss which I know will be used to benefit our communities.”

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