Three NHS Wales managers were sentenced to a combined total of 14 years imprisonment (for defrauding Powys Teaching Health Board (PTHB) of £822,000) following investigation by NHS Counter Fraud Service Wales (NHS CFS Wales), who are hosted by NWSSP. Mark Evill was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment, Robert Howells to 4 years imprisonment and Michael Cope to 3 years. Mark Evill organised the fraud, assisted by Robert Howells and Michael Cope. Mr Evill and Mr Howells were both employed through Resourcing Group Agency as project managers for the Health Board’s Estates department, while Cope was employed directly by the board as a Senior Estate Manager. The investigation revealed that Evill and Howells knew each other prior to joining the agency and PTHB. An anonymous allegation was received via the NHS Fraud & Corruption Reporting Line, which stated that Evill and Howells had misappropriated NHS money by receiving “pay-offs” from external contractors.
Evill’s responsibilities included sourcing external contractors, approving tenders and quotes, authorising payments of invoices and verifying work completed. A water supplies and electrical supply project was allocated £342,000 by PTHB, and Evill directed that a specific contractor George Morgan Ltd should be used. An investigation conducted by NHS CFS Wales confirmed that George Morgan Ltd was actually set up and run by Evill, with the intention of paying himself for the work he was supposed to be contracting out on behalf of PTHB. Under the guise of George Morgan Ltd, Evill invoiced the Health Board using false names “Paul Hewson” and “David Evans”, making over £822,000. Paul Hewson and David Evans are better known as Bono and The Edge from the rock band U2.The investigation established that Evill spent approximately £300,000 of the defrauded monies on a number of properties in and around Aberdare, South Wales, and went on luxury holidays which included flying business class to Dubai.
He also bought expensive watches and motor vehicles. Howells knew from the outset of Evill’s connection to George Morgan Ltd, with Cope finding out some time later. Both became complicit in the fraud by accepting bribes from Evill, who gave them envelopes containing cash or cheques which he posted to their home addresses. The Judge commended lead investigator Cheryl Hill, Deputy Manager of NHS CFS Wales, noting that her investigation and case preparation had greatly assisted the judicial process.
A Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 hearing took place at Swansea Crown Court on 19th September 2019. At the conclusion of the hearing the Judge made three Confiscations Orders which ordered:
Mark Evill to repay a Confiscation Order in the amount of £549,688.75 which was to be paid as compensation to Powys Teaching Health Board by 19.12.19. Default of the Compensation Order would result in a further 65 months imprisonment.
Robert Howells to repay a Confiscation Order in the amount of £13,248.24 which was to be paid as compensation to Powys Teaching Health Board by 19.12.19. Default of the Compensation Order would result in a further 7 months imprisonment.
Michael Cope to repay a Confiscation Order in the amount of £559.96 which was to be paid as compensation to Powys Teaching Health Board by 19.12.19. Default of the Compensation Order would result in a further 14 days imprisonment.
Cheryl Hill, Deputy Operational Fraud Manager at NHS CFS Wales said:
“This result sends out a clear message that those found to have defrauded the NHS will not only face prosecution, but that the money stolen will be pursued to ensure that it goes back where it belongs. Evill, Howells and Cope were greedy in their bid to re-direct NHS funds into their own pockets, so it is good to see the money being recovered so that it can be used for what it was intended for - patient care.”