CASH from a Yorkshire NHS trust was used to fund lavish lifestyles for alleged fraudsters, including meals at London’s top restaurants, country hotels, executive box football tickets and weekends away.
Six people appeared in court yesterday charged in connection with a plot to steal more than £3m from Leeds and York Partnership Trust through misappropriated training contracts.
Huw and Jaqualine Grove, 44 and 47, Terence Dixon, 46, Laura and Wayne Hill, both 39, and Daniel Benton, 37, are accused of receiving thousands of pounds in payments from NHS manager Neil Wood, 41, who was responsible for ordered training contracts for NHS workers.
During the opening day of proceedings at Leeds Crown Court yesterday, a jury was told how Wood, who worked for the trust between 2003 and 2013, made vastly inflated expenses claims, clawing back money for football tickets, Christmas presents and family holidays.
He also organised lavish away days for the defendants, including a weekend away in London where they stayed in the Mandarin Hotel in Hyde Park, had lunch in Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant, before being treated to a private dining experience at Gordon Ramsey’s Maze restaurant.
Prosecutor Craig Hassall told the court: “In 2009 he (Wood) was responsible for creating new training programmes and outsourced the majority of work to his friends Huw and Jaqualine Grove.”
The court heard The Learning Grove was the company owned by Huw and Jaqualine Grove and LW Learning was a company owned by Wood’s wife Lisa Wood, 40.
Mr Hassall said: “Almost 50 per cent of all money paid to The Learning Grove was sent to LW Learning Ltd.
“The money paid to The Learning Grove could have all been done in house by the NHS.
“They should simply not be jobs for the boys. Had they [the NHS] known he was paying into his wife’s company for services already supplied by his NHS salary then it would have been stopped.”
Emails sent between Wood and Huw Grove in 2007 allegedly show Grove asking Wood to include The Learning Grove on a list of NHS approved suppliers in order to provide training services. As a sweetener to the deal, Grove is alleged to ask Wood for a 35 per cent cut in fees paid by the NHS to The Learning Grove for training supplies.
When the pair discussed how much the NHS should pay The Learning Grove for training services, Huw Grove wrote: “Whatever makes it work within reason.”
The pair also allegedly discussed deleting emails in order not to leave a paper trail behind, ending least one email with the phrase “delete, delete, delete”.
In 2009 another email sent between Wood and Huw Grove, using Lisa Wood - Neil’s wife’s - email account allegedly discussing buying iPods, mobile phones, gym memberships as well as spending £4,000 on a piece of land next to the Grove’s home in Bristol.
The court was also told how Wood treated his staff at the Leeds and York NHS Trust to expensive team bonding exercises, including taking them to an Italian restaurant in Leeds.
Mr Hassall said: “The hospitality laid on was continued and Neil Wood booked an executive south stand box at Elland Road for Leeds United versus Tottenham Hotspur.
“One member of his team bought his own ticket for the game, saying he was a season ticket holder and that he already had a seat, but was told off by Neil Wood for not being “loyal” to the team.
“Another time he booked a country house hotel with a seven course tasting menu as well as giving his team £500 in cash to organise a team building event.”
Huw and Jaqualine Grove, both of Bristol, deny two counts each of conspiracy to commit fraud.
Benton, of Newport Crescent, Leeds, and Dixon, of Monmouth, deny single counts of conspiracy to commit fraud.
Laura Hill, from Colchester, Essex, denies two counts of acquiring, using or possessing criminal property and Wayne Hill, also of Colchester, denies one count of the same charge.
The trial continues.