The ghost, the guardian and the Galleria—internal fraud in local authorities
No man can make good during working hours who does the wrong thing outside of working hours.
William J H Boetcker (1873–1962)
Like the NHS, local authorities have proved rich pickings for fraudsters in recent years. The wide range of activities where an average local authority in the UK will spend money has inevitably left them at risk of not just external fraud but also internal fraud, whether by a trusted contractor or their own employees.
The National Fraud Initiative has played its part in helping to pick out benefit cheats and bogus or fraudulent employees, but even so, some large cases have slipped through the net, only to be picked up either by chance or a lucky break when they had already done significant damage. Two cases from one London local authority emphasise the kinds of issues that can arise with employee fraud in local authorities. Later in this chapter, I’ve looked at two cases at other local authorities where their problems stemmed from the very top.
CASE 1—A GHOST IN THE MACHINE
In July 2005, the judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court jailed Hieten Patel for six years for a £1.7 million fraud against Camden Council. Until his arrest in May 2004, he had been a claims assessor in the Housing Benefits Department at Camden. The CPS dropped charges against Patel’s wife after Patel and his accomplice, Bruno Hofferer, both made statements that she was not involved. The judge sentenced ...