Birmingham dentist Joyce Trail jailed for £1.4m fraud

Dr Joyce Trail Dr Joyce Trail was convicted at Birmingham Crown Court on 31 July

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A Birmingham dentist who defrauded the NHS out of £1.4m has been jailed for seven years.

Dr Joyce Trail, 50, of Park Drive, Little Aston, Sutton Coldfield, was convicted in July after a five-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

The jury heard Trail had submitted claims for treating more than 100 patients who were dead, and made duplicate claims for others.

Jailing Trail, Judge Peter Carr said she had been motivated by pure greed.

At Coventry Crown Court, Trail was sentenced to six and a half years for conspiracy to defraud and a further six months for perverting the course of justice, which she had admitted before the trial.

Her daughter Nyri Natilia Sterling, 33, of Ashwood Close, Oldbury, was also jailed for two years for conspiring to defraud the NHS.

The trial was told that Sterling had worked in the administration side of the Handsworth practice and assisted her mother in committing the fraud.

Trail is thought to have made about £1.4m between April 2006 and March 2009, by making claims for dental work that she had not performed.

Trail's collection of shoes The court heard Trail's shoe collection would "make Imelda Marcos proud"

The court heard she used the money to travel the world, sometimes staying in £1,000-a-night hotels and and pay for a designer shoe collection that would "make Imelda Marcos proud".

Investigators also found expensive jewellery, designer clothing and foreign currency at Trail's home.

Judge Carr was told the sum could have been used to fund 73 newly-qualified nurses for a year, 221 hip replacements, or life-saving drugs for 51 leukaemia patients.

Trail was first investigated by the NHS in 2004, when she was found to have over-claimed and was ordered to pay back more than £320,000.

Judge Carr told her: "It is my view that, having been ordered to pay back such a large sum, and not wishing to forgo the lifestyle to which you by then had become accustomed, you deliberately set out to ensure that you did not.

"You knew, as a result of that investigation, exactly what was required to try and ensure that your fraud was not discovered."

Condemning the dentist's conduct as calculated, blatant and persistent dishonesty, the judge said he was satisfied that although she had recruited others into the fraud, she was its "organiser and leading light".

Analysis

Joyce Trail had a contract that was three or four times greater than other NHS dental practices of a similar size.

Although she officially claimed about 25% of the care was for visits to nursing homes - the reality was that nearly all her claims were bogus.

She claimed that virtually every patient real or dead needed a new set of dentures every three months. She could then charge the NHS the maximum amount each time.

Some of these homes were as far afield as Nottingham and Manchester.

After Joyce Trail was arrested for the £1.4m fraud in 2009, the NHS continued to pay her practice a further £1m until she was finally convicted in July 2012.

Birmingham and Solihull NHS Cluster said it had been continued to pay Trail until the conviction, rather than risk facing "an enormous compensation claim".

It said: "Dr Trail exploited this and spent huge amounts on legal and regulatory support challenging the PCT unsuccessfully at the NHS Litigation Authority and Judicial Review.

"She and her advisers made every effort to thwart the PCT from effectively managing her contract whenever possible."

It added: "With the benefit of hindsight we are looking back to see whether more could have been done and earlier."

The trial followed an investigation by NHS Protect, which combats fraud within the health service.

Speaking after the hearing, the organisation said Trail had forged more than 28,000 documents to support her "bogus claims".

More than 150 claims, costing over £26,500, were for fitting dentures or taking impressions for people who were dead at the time she claimed to have started treatment.

NHS Protect added: "Even after Trail's assets had been frozen, she continued to act dishonestly.

"She used a bank account in another person's name and paid money from the dental practice into this bank account.

"She also rented a house out, and asked the tenant to pay in cash so there would be no paper trail of this additional income."

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