Nursery deputy found guilty of fraud

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A nursery deputy manager has received a suspended sentence for giving free places to her children.


The Old-Co-operative nursery in Gotham, Nottinghamshire

Laura Owen, who worked at the Old Co-operative Day Nursery in Gotham, Nottinghamshire, was found guilty at Nottingham Crown Court of fraud and obtaining services by deception, after she gave her three children free childcare worth a total of £51,928 over nine years.

Ms Owen had worked at the nursery since 2001, starting as an early years educator before being promoted to deputy manager in 2006, when she was put in charge of invoicing parents and carers at the setting.

Ms Owen pleaded guilty to both counts at the hearing on 21 February 2018 and was given a 16-month prison term suspended for two years.
She was also sentenced to a community order, according to which she will be subject to curfew for three months.

The court heard she was dealing with sickness in the family as well as ongoing financial problems, meaning she was not ordered to pay compensation.

Nursery manager Charlotte Harris said, ‘Laura was a trusted and popular member of our team. She was entrusted with invoicing parents and carers. Her deception was simple; by not raising invoices on her children, neither the book keeper nor the accountant would find any discrepancies on our audits.

‘Laura was in receipt of tax credits and kept these for herself. She made false receipts to HMRC to say these had been paid in full. To date no explanation as to where these monies went have been offered, nor an apology forthcoming.

‘We are pleased she hasn’t been served a custodial sentence as this would have an impact on her three children.’

Ms Harris said the nursery’s legal case against a ‘rogue’ Ofsted report in 2016 allowed Ms Owen to defraud the setting without anyone noticing.

‘Laura did this at a time when we were working many hours on a successful landmark case against Ofsted and was able to hide behind man hours of the management,’ she explained.

Ms Harris added that the nursery was now using the portal Baby’s Days to carry out invoicing automatically rather than using paper copies.

‘We are glad to have had closure to this sorry set of events, and to move forward with our Outstanding team of educators and teachers to provide high quality education in the beautiful idyllic location of Gotham, Nottinghamshire,’ she said.

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