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School secretary 'husband’s firm paid £74k for phantom work'

Secretary Deborah Jones said her husband’s firm was paid around £74,000 for phantom work at the school where she worked, a jury heard.

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Deborah Jones

David Jones, who traded under the name of ESR Building Maintenance had carried out around seven small jobs at Annie Lennard Primary at The Oval in Smethwick worth about £1,644, Mr Mark Jackson, prosecuting, told Wolverhampton Crown Court.

The last legitimate invoice submitted by him was in or around October 2010 but 74 purchase orders in the name of the firm submitted between February 2010 and May 2015 were false, it was said.

Mr Jackson continued: “The value of these was around £74,000 which was defrauded from the school’s budget and therefore not available to spend on resources for the children’s education.”

Each of the 59 school cheques used were signed by the headmistress and alleged co-conspirator Michelle Hollingsworth and each was made payable not to ESR Building Maintenance but to D. Jones, the court was told.

Each of the bogus purchase orders were submitted by Deborah Jones who allegedly told investigators she received about £40,000 of the money and gave the remaining £35,000 to Hollingsworth in cash, said the prosecutor.

Oldland Shopfitters Ltd from Cannock was paid more than £46,000 for work at the school around £44,000 worth of which had not been done and the job it did complete was charged double the proper price, claimed Mr Jackson.

Jonathan Elks, whose firm Jon’s Upholstery was paid more than £9,000 by Annie Lennard School and thought he was doing work for it but said he never went there, revealed the prosecutor who explained:

“He went to Michelle Hollingsworth’s house to collect the furniture to be reupholstered and returned it to the same address but was always paid with an Annie Lennard School cheque.”

Former school secretary Jones from Barrs Road, Cradley Heath, has admitted conspiring with her headteacher to defraud their school but denies involvement in frauds with other people which she is also accused of.

Hollingsworth, from Hatherton Park, Cannock pleads not guilty to all the charges of conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to attempt to pervert the course of justice which she faces.

David Jones does not face any charges.

Hollingsworth and Deborah Jones left the school in 2015.

The case continues.

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