Sandwell Council to attempt to get back £500,000 stolen by Smethwick headteacher
Legal action to help recover half a million pounds stolen by a corrupt Smethwick headteacher and her school secretary is to begin later this month.
Sandwell Council's counter-fraud chiefs want Wolverhampton Crown Court to force Michelle Hollingsworth and Deborah Jones to pay back some of the £500,000 they syphoned out of Annie Lennard Primary School over five years.
In November, ex-headteacher Hollingsworth and secretary Jones were jailed for five years six months and four years three months respectively for their leading roles in the fraud.
The two fraudsters made 180 visits to boutique stores, some as far away as Cheshire, on shopping sprees funded by cheques from the school.
They also plundered more of its money in kick-back deals where tradesmen were paid for work that was either overpriced or invented before sharing the profit with one or both women.
Hollingsworth also used the cash to buy herself two oil paintings which she said were for the school but she kept at home.
Mrs Hollingsworth, from Hatherton Park, Cannock, was responsible for the school losing at least £513,000 while Jones, of Barrs Road, Cradley Heath, was involved in at least £439,000 of the loss.
In a report to Sandwell Council's audit and risk assurance committee, counter-fraud officers said they have already seized some goods bought with the stolen cash.
The report states: "Restraints have already been applied to several bank accounts and charges have been laid against two properties to prevent assets being disposed during the recovery process.
"Several assets have also been recovered, with the intention to sell the items via an auctioneer who specialises in selling criminal assets."
Hollingsworth's builder husband, Joseph, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for his part in the scam. In total, 11 people were charged with being involved on varied offences – with only two being acquitted.
Following the sentencing, Sandwell Council said it was using the Proceeds of Crime Act to claw back as much money as possible.
Officers have said: "A timetable has already been set, proceedings will begin at Wolverhampton Crown Court in January 2020 and a judgement should be concluded by June 2020.”
Councillors will discuss the report at their meeting on Thursday.
Full coverage of the trial
Take a look back at coverage of the trial from the Express & Star's reporting team.
- School fraud trial told of cash for cheques scam claims
- Niece denies family plot in Smethwick school fraud case
- Headteacher's sister-in-law 'paid £12k for child special needs training services'
- 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
- Former Smethwick headteacher accused of fraud was 'manipulative'
- Primary school headteacher's family ‘told boyfriend to take fraud blame’
- Black Country primary school headteacher ‘gave contracts to family’
- School secretary 'husband’s firm paid £74k for phantom work'
- Headteacher and secretary 'siphoned thousands from school accounts'
Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.