A police photographer who fraudulently claimed almost £200,000 in an overtime, income tax and VAT swindle has been jailed for two years.
Belfast Crown Court heard that following a promotion to supervisor within the Knocknagoney PSNI photography branch, Fergus Dixon Grant (40) fictitiously told colleagues he was suffering from testicular cancer and was put on ‘flexi-time,’ but then abused that sympathy by claiming over £100,000 in overtime, mileage and subsistence allowances.
Jailing Grant, Judge Philip Babington said it was a “particularly serious” case as he had conned three different organisations and that “above all, it’s a very serious case of breach of trust by someone in a responsible position in an organisation dedicated to detecting crime”.
Grant, from Orangefield Avenue in east Belfast, pleaded guilty to eight counts of false accounting relating to overtime claims, income tax and VAT fraud, one of possessing articles for use in fraud, two of making or adapting documents for use in fraud and one of making DVD film copies in breach of copyright with all the offences dated between October 2002 and March last year.
The court heard that Grant created a false photography business which he claimed ran at a loss to get tax and VAT rebates totalling £66,650, borrowed a PSNI computer tower to copy the 1,449 mainstream and pornographic DVDs uncovered at his home and submitted numerous false overtime claim forms to the PSNI central pay branch for which he was paid £119,832 over and above his salary.
Prosecuting lawyer Amanda Brady told the court Grant began working in the photography branch in 1998 but that after a promotion to senior imaging officer in August 2004, Grant became responsible for the day-to-day running of the department with his hours being changed to nine to five, Monday to Friday with weekends off.
However, the central pay branch began an internal investigation in March last year because “it looked as if the defendant was making excessive personal overtime, mileage and subsistence claims dating back to September 2004”.
Ms Brady addded that a further investigation by the professional standards department also began amid allegations that Grant had been using police equipment to “manufacture and distribute” counterfeit DVDs.
She said Grant’s supervisor spoke to him about the claims on March 9 and the senior imaging officer “broke down” and admitted what he had done.
Later that month, police officers searched his home and it was then that they uncovered the 1,449 counterfeit DVD’s along with a computer tower belonging to the PSNI, which was capable of copying the films.
Defence QC Paul Ramsey said Grant was “deeply ashamed” about the cancer claim but that at the time, he was “in the grip” of a gambling addiction. Jailing Grant and adjouring confiscation proceedings, Judge Babington said it was clear that despite the problems of gambling and a marriage break-up, “the frauds were ongoing” at that time.