A nurse and four healthcare assistants have been convicted for their involvement in a fraud conspiracy that was masterminded by a recruitment agent.
Registered nurse Violet Nhende and the others were sentenced at Kingston-Upon-Hull Crown Court on 18 May for conspiracy to defraud.
“All seven conspired to deliberately defraud multiple NHS organisations”
Charles Elad, 46, was working as a recruitment officer for ID Medical at the time of the offences. Each of the five healthcare workers was convicted of separate fraud conspiracies with Mr Elad. His wife, Tanyi Elad, was convicted of a money laundering offence.
The total loss to the NHS was £72,991, according to the NHS Counter Fraud Authority. Various NHS hospitals around England were targeted, including Scunthorpe General, Royal Blackburn, Shrewsbury and Darlington.
Mr Elad enlisted Ms Nhende and HCAs George Kiberu, Abosede Amusan, Ernest Anonyo and Rilindis Bessem to submit large numbers of fraudulent timesheets to the recruitment agency, who were unaware of the fraudulent activity taking place.
The agency workers were subsequently paid for the unworked shift. The agency then unknowingly invoiced the various trusts for these shifts.
Once an agency worker had been paid for the “ghost shifts”, Mr Elad would then request they make a payment to him, using his wife’s bank account to hide the transactions.
NHS Counter Fraud Authority investigators were able to prove in court both that Mr Elad had conspired with the other defendants, and how he had been the orchestrator of their activity.
“Everyone knows this trust needs every pound it has to treat people who are ill”
The trial began on 23 April. Ms Nhende, Mr Kiberu and Mr Anonyo pleaded guilty to their charges, while the remaining defendants entered not guilty pleas.
Mr Elad subsequently received three years’ imprisonment. He was convicted of four counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and one count of fraud, with a further conspiracy count left to lie on file.
Ms Amusan, 38, and Ms Bessem, 39, received 16 month and six month prison sentences, respectively. They each denied one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation but were convicted by the jury.
Ms Nhende, 49, Mr Kiberu, 50, and Mr Anonyo, 40, received suspended prison sentences. They each admitted one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
Richard Rippin, head of operations at the NHS Counter Fraud Authority, said he was “delighted with the outcome of this investigation”.
“All seven conspired to deliberately defraud multiple NHS organisations,” he said. “They had been employed to care for NHS patients, but instead took resources away from patient care for their own personal gain.
“It sends a message to anyone under the mistaken impression that NHS funds are an easy target for fraud, that they will be caught,” he said.
He added that the authority was now taking action to try and “recover the money lost to the NHS”.
Marcus Hassall, director of finance at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Scunthorpe Hospital, said: “Those convicted were involved in carefully orchestrated planned conspiracies to defraud the NHS, and our trust, out of thousands of pounds.
“These were not victimless crimes,” he said. “Everyone knows this trust needs every pound it has to treat people who are ill and provide the best care we can.”