Three sentenced over loans scam at London college

These three men have been sentenced after conspiring together in a loans scam at a London college.

Nathan Simmons (pictured above left), aged 30, admitted eight counts of fraud after hacking into a colleague’s account and signing-off 44 higher education loan applications between December 2012 and May 2013 while working as an administrator at East London’s Newham College, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Leon Marshalleck (pictured above centre), 29, and Peter Couzens (pictured above right), 30, both admitted fraud and converting criminal property after they passed their details to Simmons on the promise they could keep a cut of the loan cash in their name.

The SLC paid out £117,416, but loans worth £209,571 were blocked.

Simmons, of Meath Road, Stratford, was jailed for two years and Marshalleck and Couzens were both ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work on Friday.

Prosecutor Simon Sandford said: “Investigations by the SLC revealed that 44 students had been paid student loans on the basis they had enrolled at Newham College when in fact they hadn’t.”

He added: “Mr Simmons was the inside man who was an employee of Newham College who used another employee’s login without that employee’s knowledge to authorise bogus applications for loans.

“The other defendants allowed their personal details and bank account to be used for bogus applications,” he said. “They then withdrew the money in cash in return for a cut of the proceeds.”

Father-of-three Simmons, who has previous convictions for affray, battery and possession of cannabis, and served a seven-year jail term for heroin and firearms offences in 2007, secured the part-time job on a temporary basis at the college through his girlfriend’s mother, an examinations officer, but Judge Andrew Goymer said she was “wholly innocent” of involvement in the fraud.

He said: “He [Simmons] had himself been in prison so it looked like a very good opportunity for an ex-offender to better himself and turn his back on crime and that indeed is what he should have done.

“Unfortunately, he chose to let her down badly by going back to crime at the very place where he worked.”

Marshalleck and Couzens each received £6,159 from the SLC through the scam, keeping a cut of at least £1,000 each and handing over the rest to unknown third parties.

Couzens, of Stroud Green Road, Finsbury Park, who has no previous convictions, told police he had provided his name and account details “to make easy money” but did not fill out the applications himself, the court heard.

In addition to the 120 hours of unpaid work, Marshalleck, of Woodville Road, Surrey, who had previous convictions of cannabis and counterfeit currency possession and further drugs offences, received a six month suspended prison sentence, while Couzens was ordered to pay £1,000 compensation.

A spokesperson for the college said: “The SLC contacted us about the irregularities. An investigation took place immediately, as a result of which, the staff member concerned was dismissed and the Police were notified.”

A Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson said more information would be provided about how it planned to reclaim the lost money for the SLC in November.

An SLC spokesperson said: “The SLC detected these fraudulent applications and cooperated with the police during their investigation.

“The SLC’s counter fraud services team works closely with police and other law enforcement agencies to tackle student funding fraud and protect the public purse.”

Image: Nathan Simmons, Leon Marshalleck and Peter Couzens

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