News Release: NHS Counter Fraud Authority recovers £11,000 from CEO and husband
A former CEO of Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, who also served as NHS England's National Lead for Equality, has been ordered - along with her husband - to pay back over £11,000 they defrauded together to the NHS (Exeter Crown Court, Friday 23 March).
Paula Vasco-Knight and husband Stephen were sentenced for
the fraud back in March 2017, receiving suspended prison
sentences. Their lawyer appeared today via videolink from
Following a financial investigation undertaken under the
Proceeds of Crime Act, the full amount of stolen money has now
been secured for the NHS, but not without a fight. The successful
outcome is a result of confiscation proceedings led by a new
special health authority, the NHSCFA (NHS Counter Fraud
The Vasco-Knights' legal team argued there was not enough
equity in their property to pay back the £11,072.00 they had
defrauded, which meant NHSCFA had to commence a full investigation
into their assets.
This revealed assets that the couple had not previously
volunteered to tell NHSCFA about, namely personal pensions.
Stephen Vasco-Knight is surrendering a pension early. Paula
Vasco-Knight has avoided early surrender of a pension, but will
still need to pay her half.
Today the judge determined their benefit from the crime was
£11,072 and that their available assets were the same
amount. The full £11,072 (£5,536 each) has been
confiscated, to be paid in compensation to Torbay and South Devon
NHS Foundation Trust. Stephen Vasco-Knight was ordered to pay a
total of £12,302.22 to include the 55% required for HMRC due
to early surrender.
If the full amount is not received within three months, they
will both be liable to receive a six week prison sentence.
The couple pleaded guilty in January 2017:
Stephen Vasco-Knight pleaded guilty to one charge of Fraud
by False Representation, contrary to sections 1 and 2 of the Fraud
Act 2006. His crime was submitting a false invoice for
£11,072.00 to South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
(SDFT) in November 2013, and then receiving the payment for work
that was never commissioned nor undertaken. He was assisted by his
wife in submitting the invoice.
Paula Vasco-Knight pleaded guilty to one charge of Fraud by
Abuse of Position, contrary to sections 1 and 4 of the Fraud Act
2006. Her crime, back in December 2013, was to authorise the
£11,072.00 payment to her husband's graphic design business
'Thinking Caps' for work that was never carried out. Notionally,
he was being 'paid' to produce a document about Leadership for NHS
Paula Vasco-Knight received 16 months' imprisonment,
suspended for two years, plus 250 hours of unpaid work. Stephen
Vasco-Knight was sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment, suspended
for two years, plus 150 hours of unpaid work.
After the couple found themselves under investigation, the
Vasco-Knights tried to retrospectively manufacture a document to
justify the payment of the invoice. Entitled 'Transform', they
presented it in March 2015 at an interview under caution with
Investigators who now work for NHSCFA established that the
document could not possibly have been produced in November 2013 as
stated, as it contained large passages of text copied straight
from a bona fide King's Fund document that wasn't published until
November 2014 - a year later.
As part of the investigation a number of laptops, mobile
devices and PCs were obtained from South Devon Healthcare NHS
Foundation Trust and NHS England, and examined by specialists who
now work at NHSCFA's Forensic Computing Unit.
Paula Vasco-Knight was employed as Chief Executive Officer
of South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in August 2008. Her
additional role as National Lead for Equality at NHS England began
in 2012, when it was still known as the NHS Commissioning Board.
She was awarded a CBE for her work on equality and diversity in
the NHS in the January 2014 Honours List, but this was later
Rippen, Head of Operations at NHSCFA said today:
"Paula Vasco-Knight was an incredibly well respected, high
profile, high status NHS chief officer who abused her position to
commit fraud and, together with her husband, chose to take money
from the NHS for personal gain. This POCA action is a clear
demonstration that NHSCFA will pursue all courses of action in
relation to fraud against the NHS, and chase down every penny lost
where it is able to do so."
If you suspect that anyone is committing fraud or
another economic crime against the NHS, tell NHSCFA about it -
you can call our 24-hour, confidential reporting line 0800 028 40 60 or use our online reporting tool
"NHS fraud. Spot it, report it, together we stop it"
For more information contact James Robertson or
Rianne Endeley-Brown at the NHSCFA press office on 020 7895
NHS Counter Fraud Authority is a Special Health Authority
established under the NHS Act 2006 as amended.
When NHSCFA uses the term 'fraud', we refer to a range of
economic crimes, such as fraud, bribery, corruption or any other
illegal acts committed by an individual or group of individuals
to obtain a financial or professional gain.
NHSCFA will work closely with NHS Local Counter Fraud
Specialists across the NHS in England to ensure that healthcare
crime is tackled and a culture of fraud prevention and deterrence
is in place.
NHSCFA will also support the work of the NHS Counter
Fraud Service (Wales).
There are some 300 professionally trained and accredited
Local Counter Fraud Specialists in place within health bodies
across England and Wales.
We estimate that the NHS is vulnerable to £1.21 billion worth of fraud each year.
Report any suspicions or concerns about fraud against the
NHS to the NHSCFA.