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Headteacher's scam 'cost primary school over £500k'

By John Scott | Smethwick | Crime | Published:

A corrupt headteacher masterminded a scam that cost the school she ran in a deprived area more than £500,000, a judge heard.

The scam masterminded by former headteacher Michelle Hollingsworth cost Annie Lennard Primary School around £500k

Michelle Hollingsworth systematically syphoned off cash from Annie Lennard Primary in The Oval, Smethwick, for five years that landed them with a loss of at least £513,000, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told.

The 55-year-old, who had worked at the school for 29 years, was helped by its secretary Deborah Jones who was involved in at least £439,000 of the loss, continued Mr Mark Jackson, prosecuting on behalf of Sandwell Council who picked up the bill for the racket.

The pair made 180 visits to boutique stores, as far away as Cheshire, on shopping sprees funded by school cheques.

School secretary Deborah Jones

Hollingsworth, who lives in A £1 million home in Hatherton Park, Cannock, and 57-year-old Jones, from Barrs Road, Cradley Heath, bought everything from expensive designer clothes and shoes to antique furniture and oil paintings.

They plundered more of the school’s money in kick back deals during which tradesmen were paid for work that was either overpriced or invented.

Jones admitted creating work supposedly done by her builder husband.

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She also pleaded guilty to conspiring with the headteacher to defraud Sandwell Council which funds Annie Lennard Primary.

She was also convicted of two further charges of conspiring to defraud with other workmen.

Full coverage of the trial

Take a look back at coverage of the trial from the Express & Star's reporting team.

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Hollingsworth was found guilty of conspiring to defraud with five other people and an attempt to pervert the course of justice by trying to get carpenter Robert McKeown to take all the blame for his involvement in their deal that involved payment for non existent work.

McKeown pleaded guilty and gave evidence against the headteacher at her trial.

Mr Jackson said he could not say by how much Hollingsworth and Jones had benefited personally.

He added: “It will inevitably have had a serious detrimental effect on staff and pupils at the school.”

Hollingsworth, Jones and five other defendants will be sentenced later today.

John Scott

By John Scott
Reporter/News Feature Writer

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