The trial of seven people charged with fraud-related offences after allegedly ripping off the taxpayer at welfare-to-work provider A4e is under way at Reading Crown Court.
Ex-A4e recruiters Hayley Faye Wilson, Matthew Hannigan-Train, Sarah Hawkins, Serge Wyett, Yasmin Ahmad and former account managers Ines Cano-Uribe and Zabar Mehmood Khalil all pleaded not guilty when the trial opened on Monday, October 6.
The case followed a police investigation into financial rewards claimed for helping the unemployed into work through the European Social Fund (ESF) ‘Aspire to Inspire’ Lone Parent mentoring programme, which ended in July 2011.
It is alleged that they “made false instruments” — forged documentation to support fraudulent claims for rewards for work with learners who had not found work or did not exist over a period of four years until February last year.
Wilson, aged 26, of Milton Keynes, Cano-Uribe, 38, of Madrid, Hannigan-Train, 30, of Bristol, Hawkins, 32, of Bagshot, Surrey, and Wyett, 40, of Richmond, are all charged with conspiracy to make false instruments.
Cano-Uribe and Khalil, 35, of Slough, are jointly charged with making false instruments but separately face further charges — Khalil is charged with a further three counts of making false instruments, while Cano-Uribe faces one more of the same charge.
Yasmin Ahmad, 40, of Colchester, faces charges of making false instruments and making articles for use in fraud.
A Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson said: “Under the terms of the contract, payments were made when the scheme successfully placed individuals in employment.
“It is alleged that many of the reward payments related either to people who never attended A4e or to clients whom A4e had not successfully placed in employment. The contract was to deliver motivation and training and to assist people to find employment.”
Andrew Dutton, A4e chief executive, said: “A4e co-operated fully with the police enquiry, after our own internal investigation first brought these alleged incidents to light.
“Since these alleged events took place, we have augmented our controls and processes to seek to ensure that nothing like this could ever happen again.
“Furthermore, rigorous audits undertaken by the Department for Work and Pensions [DWP] and the Skills Funding Agency have concluded that there is no evidence of fraud on any of the contracts that we hold with them.
“A4e has, of course, committed to paying back in full the total value of alleged unsubstantiated claims that were made to the DWP.”
A CPS spokesperson said the case was expected to run for five weeks in total.
All defendants are on unconditional bail.