Manchester

Rochdale NHS con artist couple must repay £180k

Deborah Hancox and John Leigh
Image caption Deborah Hancox and John Leigh diverted NHS funds into bogus companies they had created

Two NHS managers who masterminded a £1m fraud have been ordered to repay more than £180,000 to the health service.

John Leigh, 56, and Deborah Hancox, 46, channelled the cash into false companies they set up while working for the former North West Strategic Health Authority.

The used the money to lead luxury lifestyles, buying a cottage in the Lake District and a Jaguar convertible.

The couple have been ordered to repay a total of £184,930.

Leigh, who worked in IT, and Hancox, who helped train doctors, were jailed for three years eight months and two years respectively in 2014 after admitting conspiracy to defraud and concealing criminal property.

Between 2003 and 2008 they used their bogus companies to sell products to the NHS at highly inflated prices.

As well as leading glamorous lifestyles, the pair, both of Middleton, Rochdale, invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in businesses in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The pair, who worked in IT and training, used the cash to lead luxury lifestyles before fleeing to Cyprus

But their scam unravelled when the health service launched an investigation, and the pair were arrested after fleeing to Cyprus.

A hearing at Manchester Crown Court on Friday determined the amounts Leigh and Hancox must repay.

Leigh was told he must pay £177,999 within three months, or face a further jail sentence of six months.

Hancox will serve an additional two-month sentence if she does not pay £6,930.

The money will go to NHS Health Education England.

Sue Frith, of NHS Protect, the department that launched the investigation, said Leigh and Hancox had ultimately diverted money meant for patient care.

She added: "They would be in a far better position if they had just worked honestly for a living, as the vast majority of NHS workers do."

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