By Sophie Wheeler
A MANAGERESS at a doctors’ surgery has been jailed for more than three years after she plundered almost £700,000 of NHS money to play gambling apps on her mobile phone.
Karen Evans, 44, from Hyde, falsified patient records to divert money earmarked for medication, staff wages and medical supplies to her two bank accounts over a 15-month period.
The mother of two used most of the money to log into online betting apps including Sky Bet, Gala Bingo and Bet Fred. On one occasion she won £120,000 and a free bottle of champagne – but frittered away her winnings on other bets in just days.
Evans was eventually found out as doctors at the Failsworth Group practice in Oldham launched a probe into why they had to arrange a £25,000 overdraft to pay the staff.
It emerged £582,265.65 had gone missing in 327 illicit transactions since their manageress was appointed on a £38,000 a year salary. She had executed the scam by falsifying hundreds of patient records and wrongly marked down nine of them as “end of life care”.
Police who investigated discovered Evans had also stolen £77,000 from another GP’s practice in nearby Hattersley when falsified paperwork over medical supplies while working there between 2012 and 2016.
At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, Evans admitted two charges of fraud by abuse of position and was jailed for three years and four months.
The court heard she had been appointed as at Failsworth in December 2016 where doctors believed due to her previous experience she was an ‘’experienced and well qualified manageress”.
Duncan Wilcock, prosecuting, said: “The surgery was run as a small business by five doctors that worked there.
“Since that time only one of those five partners remain the other four have either taken early retirement or gone new places as a direct result of the defendant’s actions.
“Matters came to a crunch in spring 2018 at the practice when a £25,000 overdraft had to be arranged so there was sufficient funds to allow for staff to be paid.
“The defendant was then tasked with producing a financial report but it would appear in the following weeks she was absent from work and didn’t attend the meeting or produce the report.
“Instead she produced some emails that signified that the financial position was much healthier than it actually was.
“Because she failed to attend the partners asked the deputy to make some enquiries. It showed the business account was £31,000 overdrawn. The doctors asked for a more in-depth figure to be obtained.
“They found money had gone into two separate accounts to Lloyds and NatWest banks but they were found to be in the defendant’s name.
“When the deputy completed the work she discovered 327 individual transactions totalled £582,265.65.
“She was suspended on May 29 but when the full extent was laid bare she was dismissed from the practice.
“There were 323 patient records that had been falsified – nine where marked as end of life care but they were not end of life care patients. The doctor had to reassure them that they weren’t in an end of life situation.
“When the bank accounts where looked at it was found that money was spent on online gambling including Sky Bet, Gala Bingo and Bet Fred.
“Whatever she won it would appear she was simply putting them back on again. She also paid some bills, hair and beauty and some holidays in the UK and abroad – but the majority went on gambling.’’
In mitigation for Evans, defence lawyer Robert Smith said: “She used her own bank accounts and was remorseful once she was caught and she made admissions to the police.
“This is a woman who had had many difficulties in life suffering from domestic violence and drug misuse but despite the difficulties she has faced she has been a good mother and also has a grandchild.
“The money that went on gambling and the holidays could well have easily been afforded from her employment and over the last number of years she was a woman who had managed to get her life in order with things bubbling under the surface.
“But she had a problem with drink and an addiction to codeine medication as a means to escape she resorted to gambling on her mobile phone using apps.
“She has been seeking help and she knows too well there will only be one outcome today.’’
Sentencing, Judge Maurice Greene told Evans her actions were “calculated and cruel’’ and told her: “This money was paid into your own account by falsifying medical records and all this caused much distress to patients who were not in end of life treatment.
“You also sent an email lying about how much was in the accounts with over 327 fraudulent transactions.
“This caused a debt to this practice and four doctors have left as a direct result of your fraudulent activity.
“You stole the money because of your gambling addiction but the abuse of position of trust you where in caused a serious detrimental effect on the victims of this case.
“You are remorseful now and you do accept the need for treatment for gambling addiction but it is quite worrying that you could clock up well over half a million in a 15 month period.”