Dishonest Warwickshire County Council employee made £50,000 in bogus overtime claims - The Leamington Observer

Dishonest Warwickshire County Council employee made £50,000 in bogus overtime claims

Editorial Correspondent 6th Jul, 2018 Updated: 6th Jul, 2018   0

A WARWICKSHIRE County Council employee doubled her salary for more than two years by submitting bogus overtime claim forms – even going in when she was off sick to fill them out.

But despite stealing almost £50,000 from the council, dishonest Samantha Owen escaped an immediate jail term after she pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to a charge of fraud.

The 43-year-old, of Guys Cliffe Terrace, Warwick, was given a two-year sentence suspended for two years, with a rehabilitation activity, and was ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.

Prosecutor Oliver Weetch said Owen had been a sessional worker with the council’s social services since 2004, and became the sessional workers’ co-ordinator in 2010.

In July last year a new payment system was about to be put into place, and an audit was carried out which revealed a number of discrepancies.

A number of members of staff were spoken to, and overtime claim forms Owen had submitted dating back to March 2015 were checked after one was found to have a fraudulent signature on it.

In addition to legitimate overtime claims, she had been submitted regular false claims between March 2015 and July last year for a total of £49,199.

Makhan Shoker, defending, said there was never any doubt so far as Owen was concerned that she was guilty, and the only issue had been the extent of the fraud because she could not remember when she had started submitting false claims.

Mr Shoker added Owen was suffering from depression and was having problems at work.

Sentencing Owen, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC told her: “You were a woman of good character, respected in the community and working in an area where dedication is needed, and you were trusted.

“Warwickshire County Council has a definitive budget. It is one paid for by society, by council tax payers.

“That budget has as a hugely important part of it the care of children and the vulnerable, and working with those vulnerable people are social workers and sessional workers.

“The budget was constantly under pressure, and there would be a small amount shaved off budgets every year, making it more difficult for services to be delivered.

“Against that backdrop, what did you do? For your own reasons you became depressed, and I accept there may have been a difficult work environment, but there are ways round that.

“It is not a proper way round it to start to overspend and to pay yourself double your wage, that money being taken directly from a budget which could and should be applied to social workers to carry out visits to protect the vulnerable.

“One of the most serious aspects is that you were signing the forms off in the names of other people who would then have to be interviewed about those matters.

“You should understand how close you have come to going to custody.”

Dishonest former Warwickshire County Council employee Samantha Owen.


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