Eight sentenced in £500,000 college fraud case

Eight people have been sentenced for fraud after more than £500,000 was claimed from two Midlands colleges for training that did not take place.

The eight were found guilty at Nottingham Crown Court after a three-year police investigation.

Documents were forged to show the students took courses at Nottingham's Castle College and North Warwickshire and Hinckley College in 2007.

The Proceeds of Crime Act will be used to try to recoup the money.

Castle College, which has since merged with South Nottingham College, paid out £475,391 for 583 students who it was told had taken a customer services or health and safety course.

North Warwickshire and Hinckley College paid £27,108 for 249 students it was led to believe had completed an occupational health and safety course.

'Complex' investigation

The eight guilty people worked for training firms Training Options UK and FE Options and for Castle College.

Ringleader Andrew Leathwood, 43, of Waterpark Road, Prenton in Merseyside, was jailed for five years.

Carolanne Ravenscroft, 57, of Yowley Road, Ewloe in Clwyd, was jailed for three years, while Kieran England, 37, of Vermont Road, Crosby, Liverpool, was jailed for 33 months.

Steven Johnson, 39, of Strathmore Drive, Liverpool, was given six months in prison, suspended for a year, and 180 hours of community service, while Leslie Hayes, 44, and his wife Claire Hayes, 38, both of Burnt Oaks Close, Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire were sentenced to three years and 18 months respectively.

Former Castle College employee Kay Edwards, 45, of Heatherley Drive, Forest Town, Mansfield, was sentenced to 33 months in jail for fraud and three months for insurance fraud, to run consecutively, after claiming there had been a burglary at her home address.

Damion Johnstone, 39, of Mossdale Drive, Rainhill, Merseyside, was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for one year, and handed a three-month curfew.

The court heard that Edwards had put Leslie and Claire Hayes and Leathwood in touch with Castle College after discovering it had money to spend on providing training courses for students.

Edwards then obtained details of students who had previously completed courses at the college and passed them to training providers.

The details were used to fraudulently complete enrolment forms and other paperwork.

Det Con Nick Lowe from Nottinghamshire Police Fraud Squad said after sentencing: "This was an incredibly lengthy and complex investigation into a well-planned and organised fraud."

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