Mr Generosity

By Melvyn Howe, PA
A crooked company boss nicknamed "Mr Generosity" was jailed for three-and-a-half years today for milking nearly half a million pounds from the Ministry of Defence.
James McLaughlan, 58, regularly handed over "silence money" and doled out free cars, accommodation and weekend breaks to "corrupt and manipulate" others into helping him pocket taxpayers' cash meant for Britain's defence, a court was told.
The "simple" clocking-in scam, involving large numbers of "ghost" staff and repeated bribes, began soon after his company joined 100 other contractors for a "mammoth" upgrading of the Royal Navy's Devonport Dockyard site in Plymouth, Devon.
London's Southwark Crown Court heard that having recruited his stepdaughter, site manager and an "insider" at another company, he regularly added imaginary scaffolders to the work roster.
One day 58 so-called "dead men", or absent workers - more than double the real number - were paid for a full shift for supposedly helping the upgrading of the nuclear submarine repair and refuelling facility, the largest of its kind in Europe.
In reality they were either at home, in the pub, no longer worked there, never had worked there or simply did not exist. In other cases, unsuspecting genuine workers had their hours inflated.
The "dead men" con was so blatant that even when everyone went on strike, bogus paperwork suggested many of McLaughlan's staff had still worked a full day.
The court was told McLaughlan was so convinced he would never be caught, he often had subordinates lining up with other workers with lists of "ghosts" to clock in.
The scam netted up to £27,500 a week and became such an open secret it ended up immortalised in numerous comments on the walls of a toilet block, the court heard.
The scaffolding company boss made so much cash he celebrated with a lavish office Christmas party and gifts all round.
By the time the scam was brought to a halt by a tip-off to Ministry of Defence police, the public purse was £424,923 the poorer.
McLaughlan, 58, of Almswall Road, Kilwinning, Ayrshire, admitted conspiring to defraud the Secretary of State for Defence by "dishonestly causing or allowing false invoicing for extra hours" between January 1, 2001 and March 31 the following year.
His 28-year-old stepdaughter Rebekah Hart, of Fassett Road, Kingston, Surrey - whose undergraduate boyfriend was one of the "ghosts" - pleaded guilty to two sample counts of false accounting. She was given a two-year conditional discharge.
The scaffolding company's site manager Robert Burns, 38, of Whistlers Court, Ardrossan, Ayrshire, was found guilty of the conspiracy count at an earlier trial, and was jailed for 18 months.
Also convicted of taking part in the conspiracy was assistant quantity surveyor Christopher Ackerman, of Lankstone Terrace, Beacon Park, Plymouth. The 33-year-old worked for Jordans Engineering Ltd and received a string of backhanders for "turning a blind eye" to the scam. He was jailed for 12 months.

I wonder how much of this goes on.

What prospect of the MoD getting the money they defrauded of back?.

Should be some property to seize,at least,if not in the wife's name.

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