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Former council employee jailed after roofing work fraud

|News, Fraud and economic crime

A ex-council worker and a roofing firm worker have been jailed for fraud and bribery after they conspired to defraud New Forest District Council.

Former council maintenance operative Richard Cullen, aged 55 from Luton, received bribes from 34-year-old Mark Diaper, who worked at a roofing company in Southampton which is now no longer trading. The bribes were paid to secure work for which inflated invoices were submitted.  The amount overcharged was more than £88,000 but the jobs referred to the company were worth much more.

Cullen referred maintenance jobs to the roofing firm for a 10% cut in any profit. Jobs above £15,000 had to go out to tender and on occasion he asked Diaper to split a quotation into two so it did not look so big.  He also encouraged him to add expensive elements like scaffolding to invoices to push up profits.

In January 2019, managers at the council noticed that a large amount of money had been paid to the roofing company and expenditure authorised by Cullen had increased by 146%.  Soon after, Cullen was found asleep at his desk - he was suspended and subsequently dismissed.

Messages between the men were uncovered as part of the case.  These showed Cullen kept Diaper informed of jobs, with Diaper responding ‘my man keep them coming bud let’s get the money in the bank’.  In September 2018, Cullen asked how much ‘roofing dollar’ he was likely to have coming his way.

By February 2019 it was dawning on the men that they may be in trouble, with Cullen remarking to Diaper that he is “Gonna wipe my phone tonight got a program that overwrites so nothing can be recovered…I'll pop over & do yours if you like?”

Cullen was jailed for 58 months imprisonment and Diaper for 32 months at Southampton Crown Court.

Kevin Hansford, CPS Unit Head, said: “This scam defrauded the council – and by default hard working taxpayers – out of a large amount of public money.

“As an employee, Cullen was expected to safeguard the financial interests of the council, instead he abused that trust.

“The money should have benefited the community and gone towards local services but instead, it went into the pockets of individuals who were dishonestly manipulating the system."

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