NHS fraudster ordered to pay back ill-gotten gains
PUBLISHED: 16:13 02 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:13 02 July 2019
A fraudster who swindled almost £350,000 out of the NHS has been ordered to pay back the majority of his ill-gotten gains or face another three years in prison.
Phillip Hufton, of Ack Lane West, Cheadle Hume, Cheshire, was sentenced to five years in prison in November last year after pleading guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation.
During sentencing, Judge Jonathan Cooper told Hufton the offences had helped him fund a lavish lifestyle and he later took steps to make it harder for his employer to report his actions.
Yesterday (July 1) at Cambridge Crown Court, a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) was obtained against Hufton.
He was given three months to pay back a total sum of £294,747 to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT).
If he fails to do so, Hufton risks having a further three years imposed on top of the prison sentence he is already serving.
At his sentencing in November last year Cambridge Crown Court heard Hufton had worked for the CPFT for 17 months but was sacked after staff discovered his lies.
The 52-year-old claimed to be in Jordan for work when he was on a family holiday, set up a fake email account to authorise his own company expenses of more than £13,000 and ran up a £9,000 invoice bill for a work trip when he was in fact in the USA.
On his CV he pretended to be a doctor and said he had a PhD, Cambridge Crown Court heard.
Hufton also claimed to have been in the army and had saved 'countless lives in the UN'. He had photos of himself wearing fake medals which he bought off the internet.
During the course of his employment he also pretended to have cancer and took time off for surgery, which in reality was never carried out.
Based at Fulbourn Hospital, Hufton was employed from September 2014 to January 2016 as a business development manager for the trust. He was hired to promote the trust's business in the Middle East.
However, internal investigations were carried out after staff discovered 'several discrepancies' in his working time and expenses.
In October 2015, Hufton told the trust he was working in Amman visiting refugee camps, claiming £9,000 in expenses, but GPRS from his phone placed him in the USA and the Caribbean Islands.
Further investigations revealed Hufton emailed a photo of a refugee camp he had found on Google to a colleague, with the title 'off to the office'.
In December 2015, Hufton booked to stay at the Marriott Hotel in Cambridge and booked a flight to Doha for a four-day trip.
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The trip was not authorised, but cost the trust £2,837 and at the time Hufton had been off work due to illness.
Hufton was sacked in January 2016 after further internal investigations, and the CPFT then involved the police.
Enquiries about Hufton's CV found the majority of his educational claims to be false.
He claimed to have a PhD, a master's degree and five other diplomas. In reality, he only had a Bachelor of Nursing Degree but continued to call himself a doctor.
Cambridge Crown Court heard Hufton also claimed to hold membership of numerous professional bodies, such as the Royal Society of Medicine, but these were all found to have been false or had lapsed.
The total amount of money gained and paid to Hufton throughout his employment was £349,383.
Sergeant Andy Denzey said: "This POCA hearing demonstrates that crime doesn't pay.
"In interview with myself and other officers, Hufton initially stated all of this was a big misunderstanding.
"However, over the next hour and a half he eventually admitted that he lied about almost everything. His lies were almost beyond belief.
"He admitted to claiming to be in Jordan whilst actually on holiday in America with his family. He admitted to lying about having cancer.
"Hufton caused a great inconvenience and a large amount of stress to all involved, turning his hand to criminality in order to fund his personal life."
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust said: "We are pleased with the outcome of this POCA hearing, and we would like to thank the courts and Cambridgeshire Constabulary for their continuing support.
"The actions of Philip Hufton were reprehensible. He had come to the Trust highly recommended and with good references.
"However, at a time when NHS finances are under severe pressure, he decided to defraud taxpayers' money for personal gain.
"He also sought to win the trust of staff with his series of lies.
"He may well have committed further crimes if hadn't been for the diligence of colleagues who raised initial concerns, and our internal investigators who then alerted Cambridgeshire Constabulary."
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