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Crooked headteacher who stole cash from school ordered to pay back nearly £380,000

A disgraced headteacher who was the ringleader in a massive school fraud plot has been ordered to pay back nearly £380,000.

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Michelle Hollingsworth

Michelle Hollingsworth was jailed for five years in 2019 for syphoning off cash from Annie Lennard Primary School in Smethwick which was used to fund lavish spending sprees.

The shamed fraudster and others involved in the scam have now been ordered to pay back the cash they stole from the school in one of the most deprived areas of the Black Country.

School secretary Deborah Jones, who was locked up for four years and three months, made a joint gain of half a million pounds but was only told to pay back £191 as she has no assets.

But she was warned by Judge Simon Ward at Wolverhampton Crown Court that the authorities might come for her in the future if her wealth increases.

Deborah Jones.

The pair made 180 visits to boutique stores, some as far away as Cheshire, on shopping sprees funded by cheques from the school, buying a wide range of luxury products ranging from expensive designer clothes to antique furniture, oil paintings as they conspired together to defraud the school and Sandwell Council from January 2010 and September 2015.

They plundered more of its money in dodgy deals in which tradesmen were paid for work that was either overpriced or invented and shared the profit with one or both women, a trial in 2019 was told.

Mrs Hollingsworth, 57, from Hatherton Park, Cannock, was responsible for the school losing at least £513,000 while Jones, 59, of Barrs Road, Cradley Heath, was involved in at least £439,000 of the loss.

Sandwell Council has now moved to recoup the cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Annie Lennard Primary School.

The corrupt former head was told she must pay back £377,906 within three months or face an extra three and a half years in prison.

Her builder husband Joseph Hollingsworth, 60, who was was imprisoned for a year for his part in the racket and an attempt by him to pervert the course of justice, must pay back £6,781.

Judge Ward told Mrs Hollingsworth: "The only thing for me to say to you is if you don't pay and you don't get an extension you will serve three and half years in prison.

"That would be the sanction if you fail to pay."

Joseph Hollingsworth.

And the judge warned former school secretary Jones: "It doesn't mean it goes away. It just means at the moment I can't make a greater order.

"People find if they have an increase in wealth as years go by prosecuting authorities sometimes make applications to courts to increase the order."

Others involved and ordered to pay back cash were sports teacher Nathan Cooper, 30, of Pebble Mill Drive, Cannock, kitchen fitter Stephen Roberts, 62, of Great Saredon, Shareshill and Andrew Feltham, aged 59, of Waterside, Norton Canes, who ran AB Windows and Burntwood Aluminium Systems.

They must pay £13,278, £32,131 and £54,331 respectively.