Senior council officer convicted of ‘phantom employee’ fraud

A former senior council officer who is also a solicitor has been convicted of fraud against Oadby & Wigston District Council and a local cancer charity.

Leicestershire Police said in a statement that between 2012-15 Kalvinder Garcha, Sharon Reeve and Lynn Middleton, were involved in defrauding the council and Coping with Cancer in Leicestershire and Rutland of more than £40,000.

Ms Garcha was head of corporate resources at the council.

Past council documents, an agenda from 2011 and in an FoI response refer to her as being a solicitor and the Law Society lists only one person of that name as a solicitor.

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The police said Ms Middleton was head of human resources and she and Ms Garcha were also board members at Coping with Cancer. 

Ms Middleton’s sister Ms Reeve was their ‘phantom’ employee who was paid for working for the council for two years and the charity for seven weeks.

The salary Ms Reeve received was transferred to the other two and she did not keep any of the money.

At a hearing in July 2019 Ms Middleton pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and two counts of conspiracy to money launder.

More than two weeks into the trial Ms Reeve pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to money launder.

Ms Garcha was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and two counts of money laundering after a trial at Leicester Crown Court. All three are due to be sentenced on 1 October.

Detective Sergeant Matt Swift said: “This has been a lengthy and complex investigation spanning more than four years.

“Both Garcha and Middleton abused their positions within both organisations for their own financial gain, with no regard for the fact that they were not only conning a local authority but also a local cancer charity.”

DS Swift said Ms Middleton “did the right thing earlier in the legal process and admitted her involvement in these offences and also agreed to assist the prosecution”.

An SRA spokesperson said: “We were aware of the case. Now that the criminal proceedings are over, we’ll gather all relevant information before deciding on next steps.”

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