A senior NHS manager and three accomplices found guilty of money laundering and fraud offences after a £3.5 million NHS fraud have been sentenced at Leeds Crown Court for a total of nine years and eight months. This follows a lengthy investigation led by the police service and supported by NHS Protect as well as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
Neil Wood, 41, of Heydon Close, Meanwood in Leeds pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud by abuse of position and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation. Wood was sentenced to four years and eight months’ imprisonment.
Lisa Wood, 40, also of Heydon Close, Meanwood in Leeds pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering and was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years.
Huw Grove, 43, of Field Farm Close, Bristol was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud by abuse of position and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.
Terry Dixon, 46, of New Dixton Road in Monmouth was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by abuse of position. He has been sentenced to one year behind bars.
The investigation was launched into the £3.5 million loss to Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Leeds Community Healthcare Trust and NHS England in March 2014.
Neil Wood was a senior manager at the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust until March 2013. He also worked with the Leeds Community Healthcare Trust before moving to NHS England.
Wood was responsible for the awarding of training contracts and awarded the majority of these to a company called The Learning Grove, which was run by his friend Huw Grove. These contracts totalled more than £3 million over a seven-year period. During this time, a total of £1.8 million was transferred from The Learning Grove to LW Learning Ltd, a company registered in Neil Wood’s wife Lisa Wood’s name.
The investigation revealed “brazen messages” between Neil Wood and Huw Grove in which they discussed transferring money between accounts and what they could charge the NHS for, including sporting events, trips to London and dinners in expensive restaurants.
After taking up his position with NHS England, further monies authorised by Neil Wood were paid to The Learning Grove. During this time, Neil Wood was able to award a contract worth £231,495 to a company called Multi Health Systems in Canada. This work was subcontracted back to the UK to be undertaken by a close relative of Terry Dixon.
Dixon was a contact of Neil Wood, and messages between the two revealed how Dixon would keep £18,000 as an ‘agent fee’ before the rest of the money was transferred by him to LW Learning Ltd.
Referral from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs
The Police North East Regional Asset Recovery Team began the investigation after a referral was made to them by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. In conjunction with the police service, NHS Protect anti-fraud specialists interviewed Neil and Lisa Wood after they were arrested in June 2014.
NHS Protect’s Forensic Computing Unit undertook extensive analysis of the computer equipment seized in order to help prove the fraud.
Sue Frith, managing director at NHS Protect, commented: “This successful result of a joint operation involving the Police North East Regional Asset Recovery Team, HMRC and NHS Protect shows how well a multi-agency approach can work in tackling fraud. These criminals boasted about how much money they could steal from the NHS with not a thought given to the potential consequences for patients. Going forward, NHS Protect is advising the Trust on measures to prevent fraud.”
Simon Higginbotham, specialist fraud lawyer at the Crown Prosecution Service, added: “Neil Wood used his position to siphon off millions of pounds from the NHS for his own benefit. He outsourced services which could have been undertaken in-house so that his wife, friends and contacts received vast sums of money to which they were not entitled. More often than not, Neil Wood received a 50% cut. In total, over £3 million was fraudulently spent in this way, and Neil Wood received over half of that amount of money.”
Simon Rothwell, 51, of Hall Close, Bramhope in Leeds was sentenced at an earlier hearing in October and ordered to pay a £5,000 fine after being found guilty of failing to disclose a money laundering offence. He acted as the accountant for the Woods.
*The value of fraud, bribery and corruption identified by NHS Protect and Local Counter Fraud Specialists (LCFS) following the successful conclusion of investigations in 2014-2015 was £11.9 million. The total value of money recovered by NHS Protect and LCFS was £2.4 million
**As of 31 March 2015, NHS Protect was investigating allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption with a potential value of £20 million