Council officer stole PS30k from special needs fund.
Byline: Ron Warrilow email@example.com
A DEBT-RIDDEN Sandwell Council finance officer has admitted ripping off almost PS30,000 from a transport fund for children with special needs.
Dad-of-one David Pottinger claimed cash for youngsters who "did not exist" after his life fell apart following his divorce, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.
And the 35-year-old, a qualified accountant, tried to implicate an entirely innocent colleague by using her name in a bid to cover his tracks.
Mukhtar Ubhi, defending, said Pottinger was "desperate" and being chased by 13 payday loans firms.
The crook, of Hawkins Street, West Bromwich, admitted seven charges of fraud by abuse of position.
He was handed a 16-month suspended sentence, ordered to obey a six-month overnight curfew and to carry out 150 hours' unpaid community work.
Passing sentence, Recorder Sandra Bristoll said Pottinger had abused his position of trust with the council.
She said it was a sophisticated, well-planned fraud involving 32 fraudulent transactions amounting to PS29,118.
And the judge said it was an aggravating fact he had used another employee's name to perpetrate the fraud.
Mark Jackson, prosecuting, said Pottinger, who had worked for the council for 12 years, was rumbled when a number of "unusual" transactions were discovered. Payments had gone out from the department which covered transport costs for children who "did not exist." The woman employee whose name was used by Pottinger had nothing to do with the fraud but for a short time suspicion fell on her, said Mr Jackson.
He told the court the fraud took substantial planning and there was a large loss to the public purse but Pottinger admitted his guilt from the start.
After the hearing, Sandwell Council deputy leader Coun Steve Eling said: "David Pottinger tried to defraud the council and he didn't get away with it.
"This was a contemptible crime carried out by a trusted member of staff.
"He has rightfully been convicted.
"We acted immediately when we uncovered the fraud and I'm glad to say it was stopped at a relatively early stage so there is no impact on people who use the service.
"It's important to recognise that many council employees are in positions that require the highest level of trust and integrity.
"It's extremely disappointing on the rare occasions when this is broken.
"We won't hesitate to act when we find this sort of wrongdoing.
"Any employee thinking of defrauding the public needs to understand that they will be caught.
"We will do everything we can to reclaim the money that was stolen."
'"This was a contemptible crime carried out by a trusted member of staff. STEVE ELING