Exchange Chambers barristers in fraud by abuse of position trial

March 10, 2014

Steve McNally and Michael Lavery, barristers at Exchange Chambers, have acted for the prosecution and defence in the fraud by abuse of position trial of an NHS administrator who bought £160,000 of printer cartridges with public money before selling them on eBay.

Madeleine Webster, 47, from Stoneycroft, Liverpool, defrauded her own department by ordering printer cartridges and selling them online.

Webster was sentenced to 26 months in jail and her husband 13 months at Liverpool Crown Court.

Steve McNally, prosecuting, told the court how her plot was uncovered ‘quite by chance’ when she sent an email to friend and colleague Debbie Brown which linked to her eBay account.

Her account contained a lot of references to printer ink cartridges being sold and positive feedback from buyers.

Mr McNally, said: “Having seen those references Ms Brown became concerned because she could recall several occasions when there had been a lot of ink cartridges at their office which had either not been required or orders  had been placed for use in printers they did not even have.”

Webster’s boss Bernadine Lynam also recalled occasions she had been working late and saw Madeleine Webster and her husband Stephen, 46, removing items from the office via the fire door.

Mr McNally, said: “When asked about what was happening at the time she’d given accounts about correcting mistaken deliveries and the like herself, to minimise inconvenience to others.

“Mrs Lynham had taken that to be commendable and beyond the call of duty. With hindsight those incidents take on a very different presentation.”

An investigation was launched. It was found that before Webster took over ordering ink cartridges the department spent about £2,500 a year.

After it became her responsibility, the bill rocketed to £10,854 in 2008 to 2009, then to more than £27,000, £45,000 and finally £60,000 in the following years.

Mr McNally said the total cost of the cartridges ordered came to £168,420 – although some of that figure would have been spent on legitimate use.

He said the loss to the NHS amounted to between £155,000 and £160,000 – roughly six times her salary.

In terms of profit generated through eBay and cash payments, she made a total of £90,318.

Webster used the money to pay for foreign holidays including trips via Eurotunnel and P&O cruises, as well as being spent on shopping channels, eating out, bingo and bookmakers.

When arrested she tried to talk her way out of it, saying that she had a contact in Germany who built up a stockpile of printers which she then sold on but she had lost contact with her.

She also suggested that problems with the NHS orders were down to the mistakes of receptionists or computer errors, and others may have had access to her accounts, which were all lies.

Webster later pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position and her husband, who admitted taking nearly £100,000 of pounds worth of cartridges to a customer in Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to possessing criminal property.

Michael Lavery, instructed by Thompsons Solicitors to defend Webster, said it was a sad but inevitable given her dishonest behaviour.

He added: “She finds it difficult to come to terms with the amount of money that’s been spoken of in this case. Her lifestyle hasn’t been changed as a result of this offending behaviour.”