Fraud head avoids jail
Ex-office manager and head teacher both guilty of fraud
Office manager Yvonne Pucknell made frequent trips to the supermarket to buy food for her primary school’s breakfast club.
However, it was only when an official took a closer look at the receipts they saw these included meat… and alcohol!
The school’s credit card had also been used to buy items at Pets At Home – only Ashford’s Phoenix Community Primary School didn’t have any animals.
That triggered an investigation into how the credit cards were being used.
This led police to discover the 62-year-old mother had been paid for a hotel stay, presents for her daughter, a PlayStation console and her fuel bills, in all totalling more than £9,600.
But a court has heard that it wasn’t only Pucknell, of Bybrook Close, Kennington who was using the cards illegally – so was the school’s former head teacher, Robert Juniper.
Now the two have received suspended jail sentences at Canterbury Crown Court after admitting fraud charges.
Juniper, of Jubilee Field, Upchurch, near Sittingbourne, had helped himself to cash as a ‘free’ loan intending to repay it, the judge was told.
Prosecutor Adam Wolstenholme said the two had admitted “fraud by abuse of position” while working for Kent County Council (KCC) at the school in Belmont Road, Kennington.
He said the cards were used illegally between January 2011 and April 2013 and the scam was only discovered when Juniper’s successor, Frances Nation, queried accounts which had been officially audited.
The prosecutor said she discovered a discrepancy in the figures relating to how the school’s two credit cards were being used by the head and office manager.
“They were supposed to be for school use but Pucknell had used one of the cards for her own use, paying for £2,117 of petrol, for food items at supermarkets, buying working tools, a hotel stay in Belfast and payments to Amazon.
“The school accounts had been amended to claim library books had been bought through Amazon. “
But Mr Wolstenholme revealed that a PlayStation and “collectibles” had been bought for Pucknell’s daughter using the card.
Juniper, who was working at Knockall Community Primary School in Greenhithe when the offences were discovered, disputed the amount he was alleged to have taken.
He claimed he only took £651 but the prosecution say the figure is nearer £4,228, the court heard.
Guy Wyatt, for Pucknell, said she planned to repay the money back from her KCC pension.
“The reality is she will never work again, never be trusted again by anyone in relation to keeping financial records and has now retired.”
Martin Khoshdel, for Juniper, 57, said he had been “stupid and naive” and has since repaid more than £4,200.
“He accepts he made purchases at that time which were not for the school but intended paying it back. “He is extremely remorseful.” Recorder Mark Ockelton, gave Pucknell a 12-month jail sentence suspended for two years and ordered her to do 200 hours of unpaid work.
He said: “The presents you gave your daughter were not acts of generosity but acts of fraud.”
Juniper was given a 30-week jail sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 150 hours of community work.
The judge added: “You were regarded as pillars of society but you took the credit cards and used them to fund your own lifestyles.”
The judge also revealed some of the money had been used to pay someone to carry out work in school who “for reasons of his own criminal history” couldn’t be officially employed there. No other details were given.
‘You were regarded as pillars of society but you took the credit cards to fund your own lifestyles’
Former Phoenix Primary School head teacher, Robert Juniper, and office manager, Yvonne Pucknell, were both given suspended sentences
The cards were used to defraud Ashford’s Phoenix Primary school between January 2011 and April 2013