Nursery boss jailed for two years over £25,000 funding fraud
A Black Country children's nursery boss has been jailed for more than two years after pocketing more than £25,000 in a funding fiddle.
Mother-of-two Kaljit Randhawa had claimed payments under Government schemes for youngsters who had never attended or longer attended her Little Genius Academy nursery.
The 33-year-old, of Inkberrow Close, Oldbury, was found guilty of 15 counts of fraud, which she had denied, following a four-week trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court in January.
And at Warwick Crown Court on Thursday, Judge Barry Berlin jailed Randhawa for two years and four months following an adjournment for a pre-sentence report.
Simon Phillips, prosecuting, said Randhawa was a director of the Baby Einsteins Nursery in Great Bridge Street, West Bromwich, between January 2017 and January 2018 – when it then changed its name to the Little Genius Academy.
At first, legitimate claims were made to Sandwell Council for funding under the Government's Early Years and Nursery Education schemes.
But over a period between January 2017 and December 2018, bogus monthly claims were made in relation to 15 youngsters who supposedly attended the nursery.
Randhawa was trusted by Sandwell Council to have all the appropriate details available for checking, if required. After an online system came into force, paper claim forms did not have to be sent in, but had to be retained for inspection.
But when Ofsted and Sandwell Council carried out inspections in 2018, several forms were found to be missing – and Randhawa claimed they had been taken during earlier inspections.
Further enquiries revealed there were no documents to support claims that certain children were attending the nursery – including four "who had never set foot in the nursery".
The court heard when she was questioned, she claimed she had not been present on many occasions because of family illness – and she tried to blame two employees, she claimed had supplied her with false details.
Mr Phillips said that. in total, Randhawa had defrauded Sandwell Council out of £25,435 – made up of claims ranging from £900 to £3,800 in relation to the 15 children.
Of those, some had never attended the nursery, some had attended but then moved to other establishments and there were at least two instances when claims had been made in relation to children whose parents were paying fees.
Defending, Tom Horder, said: "We accept there is an abuse of a position of responsibility.
“The prosecution case was always that the motivation was that this was a nursery low on numbers and which, certainly at the start, was struggling. It was not a business set up for fraud.”
Jailing Randhawa, Judge Berlin said: "Between January 2017 and December 2018 you, as director of Baby Einsteins Nursery Ltd, which later changed its name to the Little Genius Academy, made false statements to Sandwell Council to obtain large sums of money from the Government.
“The fraudulent claims were made in three ways – one, the child had not attended the nursery at all; two, the child had long left the nursery; and three, the child was attending the nursery but the parents knew nothing about the claims and paid privately for that child – double bubble, as it was referred to.
“You said you were absent for extended periods over which period your deputy manager was in charge, and you blamed both her and another employee. But the jury saw through those lies.
“You are a practised and consummate liar. There was fraudulent activity over a sustained period. You deliberately defrauded the Government and some parents by your actions. It is an aggravating feature that blame was placed on employees.”
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