Roofer jailed for scamming council out of £88,000

A roofer and council worker have been jailed for defrauding New Forest District Council out of more than £88,000, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said.

Mark Diaper, who worked at a now-defunct roofing company in Southampton, was found to have bribed council maintenance operative Richard Cullen to secure work at inflated prices, according to the prosecution agency.

Both men pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position and bribery, it said. Diaper was handed a 32-month sentence and Cullen a 58-month sentence at Southampton Crown Court on Thursday (15 February).

Cullen referred maintenance jobs to Diaper’s firm in exchange for a 10 per cent cut of the profits, encouraging him to add expensive elements such as scaffolding to invoices to push up prices, the CPS said.

Cullen also asked Diaper on some occasions to split a quotation in two to make it look smaller, as jobs over £15,000 had to go out to tender, the CPS said, adding that Diaper overcharged the council £88,000 in total and used his position to win work worth much more.

Investigators saw messages from Cullen informing Diaper of jobs, to which Diaper responded “my man keep them coming bud let’s get the money in the bank”, while Cullen asked Diaper how much “roofing dollar” he was likely to receive in September 2018, the CPS revealed.

Council managers noticed in January 2019 that a large amount of money had been paid to the roofing company and that expenditure authorised by Cullen had increased by 146 per cent.

Cullen was suspended a short time later, after he was found asleep at his desk.

The following month, Cullen messaged Diaper: “Gonna wipe my phone tonight got a program that overwrites so nothing can be recovered… I’ll pop over & do yours if you like?”, according to the CPS.

Kevin Hansford, CPS unit head, said: “This scam defrauded the council – and by default hard-working taxpayers – out of a large amount of public money.

“As an employee, Cullen was expected to safeguard the financial interests of the council, instead he abused that trust.

“The money should have benefited the community and gone towards local services but instead, it went into the pockets of individuals who were dishonestly manipulating the system.”

Kate Ryan, New Forest District Council chief executive, said: “Although crimes of this nature are extremely rare, our duty to protect public funds is taken very seriously and we have stringent processes and protocols in place to prevent such occurrences.

We routinely review our anti-fraud processes to ensure they are robust, and we have a thorough candidate vetting process for recruitment, staff training and information, and ways for people to report any suspicions.”

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