Bogus doctor: Lewisham PCT's Conrad De Souza jailed

A man who spent a decade pretending to be a doctor at an NHS trust in south London has been jailed for 27 months.

Conrad De Souza, 53, of Whitmore Road, Beckenham, held clinical guidance roles at Lewisham PCT but was "living a lie", the Child Support Agency (CSA) said.

At Croydon Crown Court on Monday, he admitted two counts of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception.

De Souza was caught after supplying a fake DNA sample to avoid paying support for his baby, the court heard.

Fraudulently obtained earnings

This led to a full investigation of his background and the discovery he had faked his medical qualifications.

In March, De Souza, a British citizen who was born in Tanzania, pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation in relation to the fake DNA sample.

On Monday, he was jailed for 18 months for the offence against the NHS and nine months for the CSA-related offences, to be served consecutively.

NHS Protect, which investigated De Souza in partnership with Lewisham Primary Care Trust and the Metropolitan Police, said De Souza had fraudulently obtained at least £361,000 in NHS earnings.

It said he resigned from Lewisham PCT, on an unrelated matter, in August 2010.

"This fraud was unusually large, and was a serious abuse of his high position in the NHS. The actions of NHS Protect have prevented him from continuing his criminal career inside the NHS," anti-fraud lead Mick Hayes said.

'Work of fiction'

Stuart Richards, of the CSA, said: "This was perhaps the most sophisticated attempt to cheat a mother and child out of financial support that the CSA has ever seen."

In 2009 De Souza was named as the father of a one-year-old child but disputed paternity and asked to take a mouth-swab DNA test, which was negative.

But there were concerns that a signature on a consent form had been forged.

The CSA said the mother also raised "serious doubts" about its authenticity and an investigation subsequently found De Souza had actually used a sample from his elderly father and pretended it was his.

De Souza had been deputy clinical director for the South East London Clinical Cardiac Network and previously a clinical advisor for coronary heart disease and strokes at the PCT.

An NHS Lewisham spokesman said: "In neither of these roles did Mr de Souza treat patients, examine them or prescribe medication."

He said they had "learnt lessons" from the case and more stringent recruitment policies were now in place.

The court heard his curriculum vitae (CV) was a "work of fiction" and he had managed to gain promotion by pretending he was another doctor with a similar name.

"His name was De Souza - with a 'z'- but that man whose qualifications he'd effectively hijacked was De Souza with an 's'," David Horsley of NHS Protect said. "He had altered his name to coincide with the other doctor's name and used the other doctor's GMC registration number."

'Brazen' fraud

Judge Simon Pratt said De Souza lied about the paternity test to "slide out of the moral and financial responsibility for the child" he had fathered.

And he described the fraud, regarding his qualifications, as "brazen".

"You were an articulate, driven and deeply dishonest man without any apparent conscience about what you were doing," he said.

De Souza will next appear in court on 9 March for a confiscation hearing.

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