An employee at Virgin Trains defrauded the company out of more than £116,000 in a 'delay and repay' compensation scam.
Shahid Anwar noticed the system was "flawed" and relentlessly exploited it over three years, spending the money on food in Iceland and Waitrose amid personal and financial problems.The 37-year-old processed many of the refunds to himself but when he stopped working for the company, based in Birmingham, he "guessed" which trains may be late.
Anwar carried out more than 1,500 transactions and confessed the racket became a "stupid addiction".He photoshopped tickets and used up to 100 different PayPal accounts as well as multiple email addresses to make claims. When he was finally arrested in 2019 he admitted he was "relieved".
Anwar, of Deerings Road, in Hillmorton, Rugby, pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud by false representation.
But at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday 7 October, Recorder Lower confirmed he would take the "unusual" step of suspending a two-year sentence for the same period, in part due to a inexplicable delay in the case.
"The very fact you have lost your good name by pleading guilty is perhaps more punishment to you than anything else," he said.
"You have had to come clean with your wife and had to come clean with your parents, no doubt they are not particularly impressed with what you have done."
Anwar defrauded Virgin Trains out of £116,311.61
Prosecutor Suzanne Francis, opening the case, said: "This is a matter of fraud on the delay and repay scheme, a scheme Virgin Trains operates if the train is delayed by 30, 50 or even 100 per cent, one gets a certain amount of money back that they have paid for."
She said in the three years between March 2016 and March 2019 Anwar defrauded Virgin Trains out of £116,311.61 and attempted to obtain a further £50,000.05 through the same methods.
The sums ranged from £9.10 to £746 and in some instances he had them transferred to family members, although it was not suggested they were in on it.
The prosecutor added: "He submitted false claims through the delay and repay scheme.
"He was employed by an agency within Virgin Trains customer resolution centre."
Ms Francis stated when Anwar was arrested he described the scam as a "stupid addiction" and claimed he was a "model employee" but was made to do things at work he did not want to do.
He also said colleagues were "always taking about the system being flawed".
The prosecutor added: "He spent the money on food in Iceland and Waitrose.
"He said his arrest was a relief and he was glad it was over. When asked if there was anything else he wanted to say, he just said how remorseful I am and sorry."
But crucially, Ms Francis told the court there was "no good reason" why the case had taken so long to progress with Anwar only being charged earlier this year after being arrested in 2019.
Anwar 'spent the money on food in Iceland and Waitrose', court hears
Justin Jarmola, defending, stated Anwar was under "financial pressure" but had showed genuine "remorse, contrition and shame".
He argued his client had "revolutionised" his life since by working in a citizens advice team where his 'exemplary conduct' had earned him praise and a promotion to the role of officer.
Mr Jarmola also made reference to "personal tragedy and trauma" in his life, although the details of which were not aired in court to spare him and his wife's "embarrassment".
Passing sentence Recorder Lower said: "No doubt these are serious offences.
"You were in a position of trust contracted to work for Virgin Trains within what might be called the delay and repay department.
"You had the ability to approve payments of money to legitimate passengers who had suffered delay to the their journey and expected Virgin Trains to pay them back at least part of what they had lost.
"As a result of getting familiar with the system you discovered, and no doubt others had also discovered it, that the repayment system was flawed and could be exploited and that's what you did.
"The sums individually were not particularly large but because you did what you did, unsurprisingly the sums added up. It was persistent and it was sustained and it was also sophisticated."
But he acknowledged Anwar was a 'family man', with no previous convictions and that the delay meant he and his wife had 'desperately worried for the last three years what was going to happen to you'.
He must carry out 20 days of rehabilitation activity and 200 hours of unpaid work.
Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings will also take place next year to determine how much Anwar must pay back.