Derby

Bosses who posed as workers in pensions scam sentenced

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Media captionListen: Robert Tomlinson impersonates employees

Directors at a recruitment firm that made bogus calls to opt staff out of pension schemes have been given suspended jail sentences.

Directors Phillip Tong and Adam Hinkley arranged for managers at Workchain to change online records to avoid paying temporary workers' contributions.

Derby Crown Court heard while £3,000 was not paid, the potential was for £35,000 - £50,000 to have been dodged.

Tong and Hinkley received four month prison terms suspended for two years.

The firm was also fined £200,000.

Image caption Adam Hinkley (l) and Phillip Tong told managers to get workers off the pension schem

At the time of the offences in early 2014, Workchain was known as Smart Recruitment UK Ltd.

Encouraged by Tong and Hinkley, five senior staff at the company phoned the workplace pension scheme, known as NEST, posing as their temporary workers to get the employees' account ID numbers.

They then logged onto NEST's online system and opted the workers out of their pension scheme.

NEST became suspicious about a number of the calls however and alerted The Pensions Regulator.

Image caption The judge said the scam caused "harm to public confidence" in the pension scheme

At an earlier hearing the defendants pleaded guilty to unauthorised access to computer data, contrary to section 1(1) of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

Tong, 41, of Spend Lane, Ashbourne, Derbyshire and Hinkley, 39, of Shardlow Road, Alvaston, Derbyshire were also ordered to compete 200 hours community service and must pay costs of £11,250 each.

Workchain manager Hannah Armson, 34, of Heath Lane, Findern, Derbyshire was given a two-month prison sentence suspended for two years. She was also made the subject of a curfew between 19:00 and 06:00 for a period of five months. She was also ordered to pay £1,500 in costs.

Fellow manager Lisa Neal, 33, of Marylebone Crescent, Mackworth, Derbyshire was given a two-month prison sentence suspended for two years, ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and again ordered to pay costs of £1,500.

Another manager Martin West, 31, of Jackson Road, Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, Robert Tomlinson, 38, of Crosby Close, Forest Town, Nottinghamshire and colleague Andrew Thorpe, 33, of Thorpe Street, Burntwood, Staffordshire were all made the subject of community orders for two years. They will also have to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and pay costs of £500.

Judge Nirmal Shant said the "harm is not just the financial costs to workers" but also the "harm to public confidence in the credibility of the Automatic Enrolment Scheme".

Workchain Ltd was also ordered to pay costs of £60,930.

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