Cancer cash fraud woman faces jail
An NHS worker is facing jail over a fraud that saw hundreds of thousands of pounds meant for vital cancer drugs fleeced from a world renowned hospital and used on shopping sprees and mortgage payments.
Stacey Tipler exploited her job in the accounts department to help orchestrate a scam that resulted in just over £642,000 being diverted from the Royal Marsden in London.
The cash was funnelled to a group of co-conspirators who then passed the lion's share to Tipler's partner and the ringleader Scott Chaplin.
But the couple's associates used the rest to pay their mortgages or spend thousands on luxury items by designers such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton and Apple gadgets. One of the perpetrators spent £200 at the London Parachute School.
For several months after December 2011, Tipler, 32, substituted account numbers of pharmaceutical firms who were due payment for cancer drugs with the details of men recruited by Chaplin.
At one point a firm threatened to stop supplying medication after failing to receive payment because of their actions, Southwark Crown Court heard.
Ahead of sentencing Judge Anthony Leonard QC said the fraud was "highly professional" and "brilliant".
He added: " I've not seen a better one, frankly, in the course of dealing with quite a few years of fraud."
While some of the money was recovered after the deception was detected, the hospital remains £310,000 out of pocket, prosecutor Anthony Hucklesby said.
He said: "[The hospital's] patients tend to have more complex types of cancer and this fraud targeted the suppliers of essential cancer drugs to the hospital.
"There was one stage that one of the main pharmaceutical suppliers threatened to stop supplying drugs to the hospital as a result of non payment which would have meant that patient treatment could not continue.
"This was a fraud committed in gross breach of trust on Ms Tipler's part and a repeated targeting of the hospital on those numerous discrete occasions when bank details were substituted in by her."
He said there was an "element of sophistication" in the ruse, with Tipler attempting to cover her tracks by running duplicate payments.
The mother-of-two of Carshalton in Surrey, who worked at the hospital for 10 years, was found guilty after a trial of conspiracy to defraud.
Chaplin, 33, also from Carshalton, was convicted of the same charge and a count of conspiracy to money launder.
Six others, who he recruited to the fraud, are also being sentenced for their roles.
Mr Hucklesby told the court: "It was a fraud the mechanics of which were executed by Stacey Tipler.
"Over a period of months she substituted the bank details of her co-defendants in the (hospital) trust's payments system, replacing the details of pharmaceutical companies that were there so they could be paid for the cancer drugs they were supplying to the trust."
Money of varying amounts was passed to the accounts of Adrian Horan, 43, Clinton Woollery, 35, Thomas Quinlan, 26, Russell Baker, 32, and William Flynn, 37.
Flynn received the most, with a total of just over £290,000 transferred to his account directly from the trust.
The court heard that when the payments system was outsourced to another NHS division in April 2012, the accounts of two suppliers moved over with the bank details of Flynn and Woollery still attached.
Payments made after that point were in effect "beyond the control" of Tipler.
Chaplin, who was described as the "co-ordinator" of the scam, recruited the others, with most being business associates from his work in window fitting.
After Tipler arranged for them to be diverted, most of the funds were withdrawn in cash, with sums of more than £5,000 withdrawn at times.
The money was passed back in large part to Chaplin - allowing him to "maintain a reserve of cash and top up his and Ms Tipler's accounts just at the right time to fulfil outgoing payments - mortgage and other direct debits", the prosecutor said.
The couple are also thought to have used the proceeds to pay for a deposit on a wedding venue, although the nuptials did not ultimately take place.
Mr Hucklesby added that some of the money paid out was retained and spent by the other defendants.
Horan, who was paid a total of just over £197,000, was said to have spent several hundreds of pounds on a spree in gadget stores such as Apple, Comet and Currys.
Flynn paid more than £1,200 to his mortgage, while he also spent hundreds in JD Sports and at the London Parachute School, the court heard.
Woollery spent over £1,000 at Gucci and several hundred at Selfridges and Louis Vuitton, Baker splashed out at Debenhams and JD Sports and Quinlan made cash withdrawals after £74,000 was credited to his account.
Horan, of Sutton, Surrey, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to money launder.
Woollery, of Sutton, Quinlan, of Banstead, Surrey, Baker, of Worcester Park, Surrey, and Flynn, of Wallington, Surrey, admitted conspiracy to money launder.
Another defendant, Roy Harriott, 31, of Sutton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to money launder after receiving a banker's cheque worth £32,000.
In mitigation, Tipler's barrister Leon Kazakos said she could "never have foreseen the migration process" and could not have anticipated the hundreds of thousands of pounds that followed after April 2012.
But the judge said: "It was in my opinion highly professional and highly skilled. I have not seen a better one frankly in the course of dealing with several years of fraud. It was brilliant, but dishonest."
Mr Kazakos went on to say his client, who has two young children, had previously had a previously unblemished record during a decade at the hospital.
He said: "This episode of dishonesty, short-lived as it was...marks a very substantial departure from a life that was hitherto entirely blameless."
Peter Gray, counsel for Chaplin, said his likely separation from his two children was "a traumatic experience".
Tyrone Smith, for Woollery, said his known involvement amounted to a single payment of just over £9,000.
Rishi Nathwani, for Flynn, said he had closed the account involved and much of the money was not for his benefit.
Richard Furlong, for Horan, said he was "very disappointed" in himself and when he learned that a leading cancer hospital was the target of the scam as he had suffered loss in his family to the disease.
Christopher Whitehouse, for Quinlan, said he had "no idea of the overall criminality" and "would have run a mile" if he had known as he had a friend receiving treatment for cancer.
Roy Andrew, for Baker, said he was "not aware of the extent of the conspiracy".
Rory Keene, for Harriott, said his client was involved in a single transaction which was "entirely discrete" from the overall fraud.
The judge adjourned the case until 9.45am tomorrow, when he will pass sentence. Tipler and Chaplin were remanded in custody while the other six were bailed.