THREE men have been jailed in Leeds for defrauding the NHS out of a staggering £3.4 million - and living a life of luxury on the proceeds.
Described as the “initiator”, Neil Wood, 41, used his position as an NHS manager to outsource management training work to Huw Grove, 44, and his company, The Learning Grove.
Wood and his wife Lisa, 40, who was given a 16 month suspended sentence for money laundering, were accused by friends of leading a “champagne lifestyle” through their appropriation of NHS funds.
A third defendant, Terence Dixon, 46, received an admin fee of £18,600 for which no work was required - a transaction Dixon “gloated” over and said: “It’s better than working for a living”.
Prosecuting, Craig Hassell said: “Neil Wood worked as an NHS contract manager for the Leeds and York Partnership Trust between 2003 and 2013 and was responsible for organising and managing staff training and development.
“A large part of his work was supposed to be contracted in house.
“However, the vast majority of his work was outsourced to Huw Grove’s company, The Learning Grove.
“Huw Grove was well aware that the plan was to deliver management training in house.”
Leeds Crown Court eard that almost 50 per cent of money paid to The Learning Grove by the NHS was then paid to LW Learning Ltd, a company of which Lisa Wood was the sole director.
Mr Hassell said: “Lisa Wood was employed part-time as a PE teacher and had little or no knowledge of management.
“Neil Wood was obviously the director of LW Learning Ltd.
“LW Learning Ltd was not a growing company - the only company it had any invoices from was The Learning Grove from which it received approximately £1.8 million.”
The court heard that Neil Wood, who has four children under 12 with Lisa, commissioned projects through The Learning Grove including 28 management training films, charging the NHS £20,000 per film that in fact only cost £5,000 to make.
The court also heard that Wood organised lavish away days for his management team including a weekend away in London where they stayed in the Mandarin Hotel in Hyde Park, had lunch at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen and enjoyed a private dining experience at Gordon Ramsey’s Maze restaurant.
It was in 2013, when Neil Wood moved to NHS England, that Dixon became involved in the conspiracy during a project commissioned for Multi-health Systems in Canada.
Mr Hassell said: “Terence Dixon was an old friend of Neil Wood - they had known each other for 20 years.
“Terence Dixon was in the process of splitting up with his wife and while separating he became involved in the fraud.
“Dixon spent a lot of time with Neil Wood speaking about the financial difficulty he was experiencing and a big tax bill that was due to come up.
“Neil Wood was in a position to deliver funds and work to Terence Dixon, including £18,600 which was described as an admin fee for which no work was required but was simply used to alleviate the financial pressure on Terence Dixon.”
Neil Wood, from Leeds, pleaded guilty and, sentencing him to four years and eight months, Judge James Spencer said he had an affection for an “ostentatious lifestyle”.
He said: “You liked to be the man with money, you liked to show it off, you liked to show it around.
“The fraud started in a small way but it grew and grew. You were able to enrich yourself.
“All the while you were involved in exchanges between you and Huw Grove by email.
“Your glorification of it was squalid.”
Huw Grove, from Bristol, was found guilty by a jury and was told he had a “leading role” in the conspiracy.
Judge Spencer said: “You knew precisely from the beginning what was involved. Your correspondence proved beyond any doubt that you understood.”
Both were disqualified as directors for six years.
Terence Dixon, from Monmouth, Wales was also found guilty by a jury and was sentenced to 12 months.
Lisa Wood, from Leeds, also pleaded guilty and received a 16 month sentence suspended for two years.