A former job centre advisor has been jailed for 16 months after he organised an expenses scam which cost taxpayers about £20,000.
Richard Ingham had been on a fixed-term contract working as a personal advisor to job seekers at the Halifax Crossfield House premises when he began abusing his position of trust.
Prosecutor Craig Hassall told Bradford Crown Court that between June 2010 and May 2011 Ingham used his knowledge of the system to “encourage and assist” several claimants to submit around 100 fraudulent expenses claims.
Most of the claims were made under the Travel to Interview Scheme, but investigations revealed many of the bogus claims involved non-existent trips to Scotland or the South of England.
Mr Hassall said the long distances involved had been designed to maximise the value of the travel expenses claims.
He said Ingham, 50, of Hastings Way, Halifax, was clearly the “hub” of the offending which involved seven other men from Halifax, Elland and Brighouse.
Two other men Lee Richardson, 28, of Plane Tree Cottages, Halifax, and 33-year-old Raja Yason, of Craven Edge, Halifax, were both cleared by a jury after they went on trial accused of being part of the conspiracy to commit fraud.
Ingham pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy charge as well as further offences of possessing articles for use in fraud and fraud by abuse of position.
After Ingham’s arrest in November 2011 police found a large number of documents at his home which contained personal details and bank details of more than 400 claimants.
Recorder Peter Babb said he was aware of the personal problems which were affecting Ingham in 2010 and 2011, but he stressed that such offences were not a victimless crime.
The judge said the money dishonestly obtained from the department was then not available for other genuine claimants or the government at a particularly difficult time economically.
Recorder Babb also said the other defendants would not have been in the dock had it not been for Ingham.
“It’s a mystery, it seems, precisely why you got involved in this level of offending and it’s a very sad day for you,” the judge told Ingham.
Six other men also admitted the same conspiracy allegation, but said they had split any money they received with Ingham.
The court heard that although some of the men had signed forms as the conspiracy progressed Ingham himself would forge signatures or submit bogus claims on behalf of the men.
The co-accused were said to have received total amounts of between £1100 and £4000.
Stephen Baldwin, 52, Pleasant View, Halifax, was sentenced to a 12-month community order with a requirement to do 90 hours unpaid work.
Michael Hammond, 27, of Rochdale Road, Halifax, received a similar community order but he must do 80 hours unpaid work.
Mark Jowett, 38, of Bishopdale Court, Halifax, will have to do 60 hours unpaid work as part of his 12-month community order and Gareth Ott, 30, of Heath Gardens, Halifax, was given the same sentence.
Wesley Watson, 30, of no fixed abode, must do 80 hours of unpaid work under his community order while Stephen Ormston, 46, of Eland House, Elland, was ordered to participate in a 30-day activity requirement under his community sentence.
An eighth defendant Stephen Watson, 32, Granny Hall Park, Brighouse, admitted handling stolen goods in relation to payments made to him to which he was not entitled.
He will have to perform 70 hours unpaid work as part of a 12-month community order.
Six of the men given community orders were told to pay costs of £500 each, but Ormston will only have to contribute £100.