School fraud trial told of cash for cheques scam claims
A building merchants manager “naively” accepted cheques for excessive amounts from a headteacher for goods supplied, returning the overpayments in cash, a court heard.
School head Michelle Hollingsworth told Stephen Roberts that she needed ready cash to pay for a soft play area at Annie Lennard Primary in Smethwick, he told Wolverhampton Crown Court.
But similar arrangements for cash repayments continued over the next two years in what the prosecution described as a “cash for cheques scam”.
The jury heard that 60-year-old Roberts used cash left to him by his late father but when the money ran out in 2012 he did not hear from the school head again.
More coverage from the trial:
- Niece denies family plot in Smethwick school fraud case
- Estimates for Smethwick primary school works were inflated, trial told
- Estimated costs for school works 'inadequate', fraud trial hears
- Secretary in school fraud trial says headteacher was behind scam
- Head in school fraud wrangle never saw its bank statements, court told
- Headteacher accused over school fraud 'lied through her teeth'
- Alleged fraudster headteacher 'bought clothes at boutiques for school non-uniform days'
- Alleged fraudster headteacher 'offered secretary cash to take blame'
- Alleged fraudster headteacher ‘wanted cash back on school toilets’
- 'I can’t use a computer' says headteacher at centre of fraud trial
- Estimates for primary school works were inflated, trial told
- Primary school fraud trial told of grudges and gambling debts
- Carpenter admits role in primary school fraud
He was initially contacted by Hollingsworth, 55, to price a new kitchen for the large house in Hatherton Park, Cannock, that she shared with her builder husband Joe, he said.
He did not go ahead with the job because the couple wanted fittings “more bespoke” than he could supply but Michelle Hollingsworth asked whether he was interested in providing basins and toilets for the school.
He saw nothing wrong in her request for cash-back on the payments. “She told me the school was not doing well,” he said.
“She explained they wanted to build a soft play area and said she’d got some guys lined up to do it, and asked me if I’d got any cash if she upped the size of the cheque. I, naively now, went along with it.”
He continued with the arrangement from 2010 till 2012, despite “a little niggle” about what was going on.
He always dropped the materials off at her home, never at the school, the court heard.
The school books reveal that about £21,000 was paid for supplies from Roberts but his bank statements show that only £16,850 from the school was paid into his account.
Roberts and Michelle Hollingsworth are among nine defendants in the dock, deny conspiring to defraud the school and Sandwell Council.
The jury has now finished hearing evidence in the trial in the 11-week trial.
Prosecution and defence closing speeches were due to begin this week before the jury is sent out.
Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.