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  1. ITV Report

NHS managers jailed for total of 14 years for £800,000 health board fraud

Michael Cope, Mark Evill and Robert Howells at Merthyr Crown Court earlier this month. Credit: Wales News Service

Three NHS managers have been sentenced to a total of 14 years in jail for stealing £822,000 from a health board in Wales at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court today.

Mark Evill, 42, was jailed for seven years and has been disqualified as acting as a director for seven years.

Robert Howells, 65, received a sentence of 4 years.

A third defendant, Michael Cope, 43, was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

The three men worked for Powys Teaching Health Board's estates department.

Mark Evill outside Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court earlier this month. Credit: Wales News Service

Mark Evill organised the fraud.

He was assisted by Robert Howells and Michael Cope.

Evill and 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.

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 had initially denied three counts of transferring criminal property, fraud and perverting the course of justice, but changed his pleas during his trial.

Evill had set up a construction firm George Morgan Limited, named after his dog, to secretly award building contracts worth £707,946.24 to himself from Powys Teaching Health Board.

Evill used money from the firm's account to buy a Land Rover Defender, an Audi A4, a Husqvarna motorcycle, holidays to Dubai, a Chanel women's watch and properties in South Wales.

He wrote emails and invoices to himself and falsified quotes from real firms to hide his fraud from auditors.

Evill admitted he created fictional employees Paul Hewson and David Evans, the real names of U2 band members Bono and The Edge, to make the company look legitimate.

Evill admitted to using the names U2 band members, Bono and The Edge (pictured here at this year's Grammy awards), for the fraud. Credit: PA

Some of the construction work, which included the children's wing of Brecon Memorial Hospital, Bronllys Hospital and Welshpool Hospital, was later considered to have "major deficiencies", with the total cost to the health board estimated to rise to £1,420,604.66 once remedial works have been completed.

Co-defendant and fellow project manager Robert Howells, 65, had pleaded guilty to fraud after he was accused of endorsing the George Morgan Ltd bids for work despite knowing Evill was secretly its sole director.

The third defendant, Michael Cope, 43, an NHS estate manager, was found guilty of fraud after he also endorsed Evill's firm and received a £500 cheque as a gift.

Evill, from Earlswood Road, Shire Newton, and Howells, from Sedbury, Chepstow and Cope, from Garden City, Merthyr Tydfil have been told they must serve at least half of their sentence.

Efforts will now be made to recover the money.

Mark Evill took hundreds of thousands of pounds from this public body out of his own greed, using his colleagues to ensure his business received lucrative contracts for work.

Evill used the money he made in the fraud to buy land and properties in Wales, taking two luxury holidays to Dubai, buying a Chanel watch, a £5,000 Breitling watch and numerous cars including a Land Rover and an Audi.

Other defendants originally claimed they did not know about Evill’s involvement with the company but the CPS proved Howells was complicit in the fraud and Evill had bought him a Ford Focus worth almost £11,000 for his efforts.

– Juliette Simms, Crown Prosecution Service

The people of Powys have been badly let down by the criminal actions of these individuals.

I would like to thank NHS Counter Fraud Service Wales for their support which has helped to bring this successful prosecution, and also for the steps they will now be taking to support the NHS to recover the proceeds of this fraud.

– Carol Shillabeer, Chief Executive of Powys Teaching Health Board

Defrauding NHS Wales in any capacity is totally unacceptable.

Evill, Howells and Cope were all entrusted to ensure that the money spent by Powys Teaching Health Board was to be used to benefit NHS patients; instead they decided to line their own pockets with NHS money via a well-planned and deliberate deception.

The sentences at Court today send out a strong deterrent message to anyone who tries to defraud NHS Wales.

All referrals will be professionally investigated by CFS Wales and appropriate criminal, civil and disciplinary action will be pursued. CFS Wales will now focus on recovering the proceeds of the fraud for Powys Teaching Health Board from the defendants by using our powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

– Cheryl Hill, Deputy Manager of NHS Counter Fraud Service Wales