Equality Boss Faces Jail Over £11,000 Fund Diversion

An equality boss in the NHS faces a potential jail sentence after directing £11,000 worth of funds to her husband.

Paula Vasco-Knight, 53, broke down as she changed her plea on the second day of her trial at Exeter Crown Court.

Vasco-Knight Had used over £11,000 of NHS cash in order to pay her husband Stephen for work on and equality and diversity publication.

However, the publication in transform was absolutely fictitious, and her husband has also pleaded guilty to fraud.

The former nurse, a coronary size in Runcorn, Cheshire, was visibly moved in court.

Vasco-Knight has worked within the NHS system since the 1980s, before being appointed CEO at South Devon NHS trust in 2008.

In July, 2012,Vasco-Knight landed the prestigious position of NHS England’s national lead for equality, and was even awarded a CBE in 2014.

But in May, 2016, she was suspended as acting chief executive of London’s St George’s University Hospitals NHS Trust over “financial allegations” related to a previous employer.

Recorder Don Tait informed Vasco-Knights that a “custodial sentence is a distinct possibility”, while delaying a verdict until Match.

Tait told the jury that “as far as Mrs Vasco-Knight is concerned, she has fallen a long way, hasn’t she, but that is her responsibility.”

Vasco-Knight was CEO at the South Devon NHS Foundation Trust when the offence occurred.

The equality boss had hired her husband for the fraudulent job back in April 2013, but prosecuting lawyer Gareth Evans demonstrated that this had ultimately being cut and pasted from a research paper by the Kings Fund.

Furthermore, the failure of Vasco-Knight to declare an interest in her husband’s company was also a criminal offence, and what Evans described as a “massive breach of trust and abuse of her position as chief executive”.

Compounding her position was the fact that Vasco-Knight attempted to blame another senior manager in the NHS for commissioning the newsletter in the first place.

Habib Naqvi was later cleared of this charge.

Sue Frith, managing director of NHS Protect, which conducted the investigation, said Vasco-Knight’s meteoric career path had been “an inspiration to so many” and her fraud was a “huge disappointment and shock to many”.

The former healthcare boss will be sentenced on 10th March.

 
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US Investigators Examining $1/2 Billion Insurance Fraud Scam

The FBI in the United States is investigating a major health insurance fraud estimated to be worth in the region of $1/2 billion.

Fraud revolves around a cream aimed at athletes, which have been marketed in advertisements featuring former NFL quarterback Brett Favre.

But investigators are examining serious claims that some of the creams have no medical value.

Meanwhile, numerous pharmacies have reportedly overbilled or refilled prescriptions without being asked.

The well-known private insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid have been affected by the alleged fraud.

Charges have yet to be filed at the time of writing.

Experts have pointed out that the regulatory environment related to such creams is extremely lax.

In fact, there is almost no regulation overarching such compounding creams in the United States.

And the vast number of potential variations of such medical products means that the area is incredibly difficult to regulate effectively.

US officials have stated that it is inefficient for the Food and Drug Administration to screen them all and so they don’t require approval from the agency.

Clearly this is a problematic area, and one that has opened the door for this seemingly vast fraud.

Commenting on the issue, the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists told the Journal that legitimate creams can really benefit people, particularly since they’re non-addictive, and healthcare payers should take “aggressive action against any health care provider that has allegedly broken the law.”

Despite the prominence of the issue in the US media at present, it is still debatable whether any criminal offence has even been committed.

A pharmacy manager at Rx Remedies stated his belief that investigators will conclude that they haven’t done anything wrong. “It’s not like we’re selling drugs out the back door. This isn’t Pablo Escobar’s house; this is a medical profession, for crying out loud.”

The United States is unusual among Western nations in that it allows pharmaceutical advertising on television. Among comparable countries, only New Zealand also permits this.

This leads to a situation where both the pharma and health insurance industries are massively powerful, and some critics of the infamous Obamacare policy have stated that this legislation has simply handed more power and money to these vested interests.

Consequently, it is suggested that the US healthcare system is extremely inefficient as a result.

Figures would seem to support this. Aggregate US hospital costs were $387.3 billion in 2011; a 63% increase since 1997 (inflation adjusted).

According to the World Health Organisation, total health care spending in the U.S. was 17.9% of its GDP in 2011, the highest in the world.

 
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Crooked NHS Manager Jailed for Four Years for Financial Fraud

A businessman in Bristol has been imprisoned for his major role in an NHS fraud totalling £3.4 million.

Huw Grove, of Field Farm Close, Stoke Gifford, had previously been convicted in November of utilising a company in order to channel money from taxpayers for his own benefit.

Graham was jailed for four years, having been found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud by abuse of position.

Courts heard numerous examples of damning testimony, with an email record indicating the brazen nature of the crimes of the defendants.

One such form of correspondence suggested that the crimes perpetrated were “better than working for a living.”

Friend of Grove, Neil Wood, 41, had taken advantage of his position as an NHS manager in order to outsource management training to Grove’s company, The Learning Grove.

This led to seven years of financial embezzlement.

Leeds Crown Court heard that almost half of the money paid to The Learning Grove was then kicked back to LW Learning Ltd.

This is a limited company was mooted to be a management training company, of which Wood’s unqualified wife Lisa was the sole director.

Craig Hassell, prosecuting, said: “LW Learning Ltd was not a growing company – the only company it had any invoices from was The Learning Grove, from which it received approximately £1.8 million.”

It was evident that the individuals involved in the crimes had experienced a lavish lifestyle as a result of the stolen money.

And correspondence indicated that the perpetrators considered their chances of being caught to be minimal.

An email in which they discussed charging the NHS £4,000 for some football season tickets, asked: “What’s £4,000 out of the trust’s £1 billion?”

Judge James Spencer indicated in his summing up that Grove had a “leading role” in the conspiracy, telling him: “You knew precisely from the beginning what was involved. Your correspondence proved beyond any doubt that you understood.”

Neil Wood, 41, of Heydon Close, Meanwood, Leeds, admitted three counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and was jailed four years and eight months.

Lisa Wood, 40, pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering and was given an 18-month suspended sentence and 150 hours of community service.

Terry Dixon, 46, of Monmouth, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by abuse of position and jailed for a year.

The issue underlines the importance of financial management in the NHS, and the extent to which management can cause problems for the health service.

 
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Dentist Jailed for Three Years After Massive NHS Fraud

An NHS dentist has been jailed for three years after stealing nearly £800,000 from mislead patients.

Jayantilal Bhikhabhai Mistry, 67, conned thousands of NHS patients by lying about treatments.

The case led to a three-year investigation, carried out by NHS Protect, which ultimately resulted in a successful conviction.

Mistry managed to purloin £780,268 from the NHS, a theft that the judge presiding over the case described as “fraud on a grand scale”.

The fraud involved 3,360 patients, many of which were found to have been completely fictitious.

Mistry then falsified dental records, with searches of his property in Willesden Green, North London revealing dental records kept in fruit crates and Sainsbury’s shopping bags.

NHS Protect’s investigation also revealed nearly 90% of Mistry’s patients could not be traced, while almost 300 patient addresses he used did not exist.

Dozens were also registered at addresses they had never lived at, including a bank branch in Islington, North London.

The prosecution was the latest in a long line of NHS fraud investigations, after a company was prosecuted for millions of pounds worth of fraud in Leeds just weeks ago.

In addition to the other fraudulent processes, Mistry also took advantage of X-rays, while falsifying dental prescriptions in order to snaffle NHS cash.

The dentist had utilised an official docket in order to fool the NHS into believing that the claims made were genuine.

Ahead of the hearing, Mistry had already pleaded guilty, with a massive paper trail of evidence pointing to the guilt of the dentist.

Ultimately, the court system deemed the level of fraud serious enough to warrant a three-year jail sentence, despite the guilty plea.

Mistry was sentenced at Blackfriars Crown Court on Friday.

To date, £775,000 of the money has been recovered. Mistry must also pay costs towards the investigation of £50,000.

Commenting on the case, Susan Frith, managing director of NHS Protect, commented that the case was extremely regrettable.

“Like all dentists, Jayantilal Mistry was in a position of trust, but he totally abused that trust through repeated fraud on a grand scale over a long period of time. This shocking behaviour cost the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds but thanks to the actions of NHS Protect’s investigators he has already had to pay back £775,000 of it. All suspicions of fraud reported to NHS Protect will be followed up, and investigated wherever appropriate. We press for the prosecution of offenders and seek the strongest possible sanctions, so public money is not diverted from patient care.”

With the NHS facing a deficit of £2 billion this year, the fact that most of the money has been recovered will be a crumb of comfort.

 
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NHS Fraud Investigation into Scottish Firm Oricom Begins

The Scottish telecoms provider Oricom has indicated that it is collaborating with NHS fraud officers in what is an ongoing investigation.

Oricom is involved with a raft of NHS contracts in Scotland, and the NHS has evidently decided that it needs to investigate certain financial issues at the company.

Reports have been filed in the British press suggesting that the offices of Oricom were raided in relation to phone maintenance deals between Oricom and communications chiefs at NHS Lothian and NHS Lanarkshire.

It seems that contractual issues are at the heart of the investigation, with the company having several millions already invested in the Scottish health service.

Yet it seems that NHS fraud investigators are exploring the possibility that contracts at the company have breached rules related to financial wrongdoing in the tendering process.

Oricom currently has £7m tied up in contracts with Scottish health boards, and it seems that there may have potentially being a significant fraud involved in the process of acquiring these contracts.

After fraud officers became involved with the company, Oricom was keen to emphasise that it was doing everything possible to cooperate with NHS investigations, and that it was as concerned as the health service itself.

“We want to confirm that we are assisting the NHS with their internal investigations and we will happily continue to do so until the matter is resolved. We would also like to highlight that this is an NHS enquiry, and not a police matter.”

Oricom also suggested that although the incident was undoubtedly worrying for the company, that it had been able to continue with day-to-day operations.

“Oricom remained fully operational during recent events and we are writing to our valued customers and suppliers to ensure [sic] you that Oricom will continue to offer the high standards and services that you are used to.”

There has been no comment from NHS Scotland Counter Fraud Services and the Crown Office, as they have been unwilling to open up regarding what is an ongoing investigation.

But the fraud case will once again lead to question marks over the tendering process in the National Health Service and the involvement of private sector organisations.

In the last couple of weeks, two senior individuals within the NHS were found guilty of having conducted millions of pounds worth of fraud in the health service.

And it is often asserted that large parts NHS operations are being sold off surreptitiously by the government in what represents privatisation by the backdoor.

Such issues will be of concern to taxpayers, as the Oricom investigation continues.

 
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NHS Employees Found Guilty of Multi-Million Fraud

Four NHS employees have been found guilty of defrauding the health service of more than £3 million.

The quartet of individuals will be sentenced next year having been found guilty at Leeds Crown Court.

Four other defendants were cleared of charges of conspiracy to defraud.

The convicted individuals had become involved in a plot against Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and NHS England.

Huw Grove, from Bristol, and Terence Dixon, from Monmouth, were found guilty at court.

Neil Wood had pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud at an earlier hearing and Lisa Wood pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering.

Jaqualine Grove, from Bristol, Daniel Benton, from Leeds, and Lisa and Wayne Hill, from Colchester, were acquitted of all charges.

The trial, which took place over several weeks, found that Neil Wood, 41, who was employed by the Leeds and York NHS Trust, had outsourced the vast majority of work to another defendant Huw Grove’s company, The Learning Grove.

In total, The Learning Grove was paid £3 million pounds worth of NHS money.

Meanwhile, around half of the money paid into this company was then transferred to another firm, whose sole director was Wood’s wife Lisa.

Emails exchanged between Wood and Grove detail how the profits would be split, and indeed what they intended to do with the money once it had been embezzled.

Leeds Crown Court heard evidence indicating that when Grove had initially moved to NHS England that he worked with outside companies, and told them not to deal with the NHS directly, instead directing them to work with The Learning Grove.

This company was able to negotiate discounts, with costs later inflated when invoices were submitted to the NHS.

Commenting on the case, Simon Higginbotham, a specialist fraud lawyer at the Crown Prosecution Service, stated that the level of fraud was bewildering.

“Neil Wood used his position to syphon off millions of pounds from the NHS for his own benefit. The fraud is staggering – Wood outsourced services which could have been undertaken in-house so that his wife, friends and contacts received vast sums of money they were not entitled to. However, of the money his friends received, Neil Wood more often than not received a 50% cut. In total, over £3m was fraudulently spent in this way, and Neil Wood received over half of that.”

The defendants will be sentenced at Leeds Crown Court on 8th January.

 
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