Bankrupt Matthew Quigley ran ambulance firm which went bust
A man declared bankrupt with a history of involvement in failed ambulance companies was involved in an ambulance firm that went bust, the BBC has found.
VM Langfords was a sub-contractor of Coperforma, which runs NHS patient transport services in Sussex.
It was run by Matthew Curran when it went bust in July with debts of more than £440,000. Using the surname of Quigley, he then tried to buy it back.
In 2014, he was exposed by the BBC after a private ambulance firm folded.
As Mr Quigley, he was the subject of an Inside Out investigation which discovered he was involved with a private ambulance operator which went bust in 2011 owing thousands of pounds in unpaid wages to the North East Ambulance Service.
He had also previously been involved with three private ambulance firms, all of which went into administration leaving millions of pounds of debts.
Mr Quigley was declared bankrupt in 2007.
He told BBC South East that he was now known as Matthew Curran after "legally changing" his name by deed poll, and that he had nothing to do with the companies in the north of England.
"There was one company - East Coast Ambulance in the North East. One," he said.
The BBC discovered that Mr Quigley used two different names in deals to buy and run VM Langfords, which was based in Alton, Hampshire, and provided vehicles and crews to transport Sussex patients to their medical appointments for Coperforma.
He had bought the company from Calvin Hanks shortly after it had won the Coperforma contract.
Mr Hanks said: "We were bought out by a company called Acadian Holdings which was purportedly run by a Matthew Curran.
"It was only after the paperwork was signed that we started to get inklings that Matthew Quigley was actually the person purporting to be Matthew Curran."
VM Langfords timeline
- 1 April - Coperforma hires several sub-contractors, including VM Langfords, when it takes over the running of NHS non-emergency patient transport services in Sussex
- 5 May - Owner Calvin Hanks sells VM Langfords to a company called Acadian Holdings, that was purportedly run by Matthew Curran
- 16 June - A new company, VML Ambulance, is registered. Matthew Quigley is involved in setting it up
- 7 July - VM Langfords goes into administration with debts of more than £440,000. VML Ambulance bids to buy it from the administrators
Mr Hanks, who was asked to stay on as a director, said the new owners were spending money they did not have.
"Invoices start popping up for car hire for a Matthew Quigley.
"There are invoices going through for vast expenditure for new websites, for IT systems, for iPhones."
Mr Hanks said if he had known Mr Curran's real identity, there would have been no sale.
Ben Weisz, political reporter, BBC Sussex
Using a different name to buy an ambulance firm, then spending company money on a luxury pad and BMW hire even as staff go unpaid.
It sounds like a caricature, but it's exactly what Matthew Quigley did at VM Langfords shortly before it went bust.
His reputation is such that few would sell their business to him. Yet he managed to acquire Langfords just by changing his name.
Coperforma say that as soon as they realised Mr Quigley was involved at Langfords, they shifted patients to the other ambulance firms they work with - that's the beauty of their model.
But could Mr Quigley have been stopped from taking over in the first place? What kind of due diligence would that involve, and is it possible under the current system?
VM Langfords was put in the hands of administrators in July, with public records showing debts totalling more than £440,000.
Mr Quigley, however, was already involved in a new company with a similar name - VML Ambulance, which wanted to buy VM Langfords, and which was telling investors it was going to make a net profit in 2016 of £1.2m.
Mr Hanks said the past few months had left him in "a very difficult position", and "personally liable for some of the vehicle finance".
Mr Quigley has denied he had anything to do with the company, or it going into liquidation.
"The business when we took it over was unsustainable.
"So the company for the three-and-a-half weeks after we took it from Hanks was running at a £25,000 loss a week," he said.
'Quality of service'
BBC South East has discovered that in the last few weeks, Mr Quigley has registered a number of new companies at various addresses, using both names.
In a statement, Michael Clayton, chief executive of Coperforma, said VM Langfords had been one of its contractors for more than four years, "providing a high quality reliable service... but after a while we detected a falling off in the quality of service".
He told the BBC that as soon as Coperforma realised Matthew Quigley was in charge, the contract was terminated.
"However vigilant we are, there can never be a guarantee that the Langfords' experience will not be repeated at some time in the future when there are individuals who are prepared to act as they do without apparent regard for the welfare and safety of patients," Mr Clayton said.