Senior Manager sentenced for £560,000 Fraud against the NHS
Former NHS employee who committed fraud sentenced at Southwark Crown Court.
A Senior Manager at NHS Harrow Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) was sentenced to three years and eight months at Southwark Crown Court yesterday.
Thomas Elrick pleaded guilty to a charge of Fraud by Abuse of Position at Willesden Magistrates Court earlier this year.
As is always the case with successful prosecutions many colleagues from NIS, DFU, financial investigations and the wider CFA have all contributed to the outcome. However, it was the weight of evidence gathered by the investigation team of Clive Wyke and Sonia Benjamin supported by Mark Howard and Richard Tettey that left Elrick with little choice other than to admit his guilt at the earliest opportunity.
Elrick stated that he knew what he was doing was dishonest and that he committed the fraud purely for financial gain and that fraud had become an addiction. He had attempted to cover up his fraudulent activities by sending an email to the CCG using the address of his deceased wife who had died in 2012, eight years prior to the email being sent.
Clive said: “Thomas Elrick held a position of trust within the NHS, holding a budget allowing him to conduct this calculated fraud. Elrick wanted extra cash to fund to fund a lifestyle of expensive holidays and shopping which he and his husband couldn’t afford. Not only did Elrick steal money from the NHS which would have been used to fund care in the Harrow area, he used the names of family members and friends to facilitate the fraud including using the name of his deceased wife.”
The fraud came to light when a colleague at Harrow CCG, where Elrick had been employed between April 2017 and December 2020 as the Assistant Managing Director for Planned and Unscheduled Care, queried invoices from a company called Tree of Andre Therapy Services Limited.
Due to the unusual company name, checks were carried out. Searches could not find any web site for Tree of Andre, there was no trace of the company being registered on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) website and the company was shown as dormant on Companies House records.
In his role at the CCG, Elrick managed a team of staff and had a budget responsibility. He had authority and approval to sign off invoices up to a value of £50,000. Between August 2018 and December 2020, he authorised and approved invoices submitted by Tree of Andre for payment to Harrow CCG totalling £564,484.80. These were paid into a bank account registered to himself. He was the sole approver for all invoices submitted, and no services were delivered, or work conducted for the CCG by that company.
The Investigation established that Tree of Andre Ltd was registered to an address in Scotland, which would be too far away to provide services to Harrow CCG. Further investigation showed another company also registered at the same address, called Vesuvius Business Management Limited. Vesuvius Management is the umbrella company used by Elrick to channel his NHS salary of £472 per day.
In an attempt to cover up the fraud, Elrick had sent an email in June 2020 purporting to be from Tree of Andre to NHS Harrow CCG providing anonymised patient details where care was shown to have been provided, as well as the GP practices concerned. The email was sent from the email address of Elrick’s deceased wife.
In November 2021 Elrick was arrested at his home in Scotland. When interviewed by NHS CFA investigators he confirmed that Tree of Andre was a ghost company he had set up some months after he began his contract with Harrow CCG. He had registered the company on-line in the name of family members who had no knowledge of the fraud.
Elrick confirmed he had set this company up to facilitate the fraud and that no services were ever provided by it. He confirmed the payments made by Harrow CCG were made into his bank account.
Sentencing him to three years and eight months in prison Judge Vanessa Francis said: “You have worked in the NHS all your life, you are clearly someone who clearly cares deeply about helping others. Yet you used the system to systematically defraud the local authority who had employed you to the tune in total of over £565,000.
“For an NHS department already in deficit, what you did was take away the opportunity for people to be treated, for people to be helped and get what they needed. It meant in practical terms the vulnerable people who needed care did not get as much care as they needed, and you are responsible for that.
“You abused the position of responsibility that you were given and in a relatively planned and sophisticated way.”
Head of Operations Richard Rippin said: “We are delighted with the sentence given out today, and I commend the work undertaken by our NHSCFA investigators and the Crown Prosecution Service who have brought this case to Court. This was a deliberate and calculated attack on the NHS, with the sole purpose of using money originally intended for patient care to live a lavish lifestyle at the expense of the taxpayer. There is a counter fraud response working across the NHS to identify and pursue offenders like this and protect those funds needed for patient care. Work now continues to recover the monies taken and return them to the NHS in Harrow.
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