Procurement fraud conspirators ordered to compensate National Health Service

Two National Health Service (NHS) managers who masterminded a five-year procurement fraud against the former North West Strategic Health Authority have been ordered by the presiding Judge at Manchester Crown Court to pay every penny of their realisable assets to the NHS in compensation.

NHS Protect, which leads the fight against NHS crime, carried out the successful fraud investigation of 56 year-old John Leigh and Deborah Hancox, who’s 46 years of age, which saw them both receive prison sentences in November 2014 for conspiracy to defraud. Leigh had also been convicted of conspiracy to conceal criminal property.

After sentencing, NHS Protect mounted a financial investigation using its team of specialist financial investigators to try and recover any traceable assets for the NHS. This lengthy and complex work required the use of restraint powers and collaboration with authorities in both Cyprus and Dubai.

The money will go to NHS Health Education England as strategic health authorities no longer exist.

If Leigh doesn’t pay £177,999.84 within three months, he will face a default jail sentence of six months. If Hancox doesn’t pay £6,930.34 within three months, her default jail sentence will be two months.

Now resident in Middleton, Rochdale in Greater Manchester, the couple were arrested back in December 2013 in Cyprus and extradited to the UK having fled this country in 2009. They eventually pleaded guilty.

Their fraud took place between 2003 and 2008, when Leigh and Hancox both worked at the North Western Deanery, at the time part of the North West Strategic Health Authority. They lived a comfortable lifestyle, buying a cottage in the Lake District, driving a Jaguar 4.2 V8 Convertible and investing hundreds of thousands of pounds in businesses in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

The pair used three companies as a front to disguise their ongoing fraud – Action Technology Ltd (trading as Action Direct), Bibi’s IT Solutions Ltd and Wiscom Technology Ltd. These companies sold IT equipment to the North Western Deanery at inflated prices – their combined fraudulent turnover was more than £1 million. Leigh and Hancox had links to all of them, but neither made the required declaration of interest to the health authority.

Following an anonymous tip-off, the matter was investigated by a Local Counter Fraud Specialist before being referred to NHS Protect, whose fraud investigators worked closely with officers of the Greater Manchester Police to secure a successful result.

NHS Protect also worked with the National Crime Agency to issue European Arrest Warrants, and later to have the fugitives extradited to the UK.

Sue Frith, managing director of NHS Protect, said: “John Leigh and Deborah Hancox would be in a far better position if they had just worked honestly for a living, as the majority of NHS workers do. They cynically diverted money meant for patient care, abusing their positions of trust and authority. Their determined attempts to evade justice compound the crimes. 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.”

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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