Conman jailed over £350,000 NHS fraud
AMAN who scammed £350,000 from the NHS to fund his ‘lavish lifestyle’ has been jailed.
Phillip Hufton, 52, also pretended to have cancer and owned fake army medals while working at a hospital in Cambridgeshire.
He worked for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) for 17 months, but was fired after staff discovered his lies.
Hufton, of Cheadle Hulme, created a fake email account to approve expenses of more than £13,000, and racked up a £9,000 bill for what he pretended was a work trip when he was actually in the USA.
The lies continued on his CV, where he claimed to be a doctor and said he had a PhD, Cambridge Crown Court heard.
Hufton also lied about having cancer and took time off work for surgery that never happened. He claimed to have joined the Army and saved ‘countless lives in the UN,’ buying fake medals off the internet.
Hufton was employed from September 2014 to January 2016 as a business development manager for the trust, based at Fulbourn Hospital. He was hired to promote the trust’s business in the Middle East.
When staff uncovered ‘several discrepancies’ in his working time and expenses, internal investigations were launched.
Hufton told the trust he was working in Amman, the capital of Jordan, in October 2015. He even emailed a colleague a picture of a refugee camp with the title ‘off to the office.’
But GPRS from his phone placed him in the USA and the Caribbean at the time, and further investigations revealed the refugee camp image was taken on Google.
Hufton booked a stay at the Marriott Hotel in Cambridge and a flight to Doha for a four-day trip in December 2015.
He was off work sick at the time and the unauthorised booking cost the trust £2,837.
Hufton was sacked in January 2016 after more internal investigations, and the trust then involved the police.
Most of the educational claims on his CV, which said he had a PhD, a master’s and five other diplomas, were revealed to be false. In fact, he had only a Bachelor of Nursing degree, despite calling himself a doctor.
Hufton also claimed to be a member of a number of professional bodies, including the Royal Society of Medicine, but the memberships were all found to have lapsed or been false.
Throughout his time working for the trust, the total sum of money gained by and paid to Hufton was £349,383. He was arrested and admitted in a police interview that he had never paid any income or corporation tax.
He said it was ‘very hard to remember’ all the lies he had told, and said the deception began when he was living in a tent in Cambridge due to marital difficulties.
He admitted claims that he had been in the Army were untrue and said he had bought his medals online. He had actually been an acting captain in the Territorial Army, the volunteer reserve force for the British Army.
Hufton, of Ack Lane West, Cheadle Hulme, told police a large amount of his adult life had been lived as a lie, and said he had ‘sort of expected’ a knock at the door. He said he had tied himself in knots and had built a coping mechanism to keep people at home happy.
At a previous court hearing, Hufton pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation on the basis that the financial benefit to him was only £173,000 and not the full amount of £349,383.
But Cambridge Crown Court considered the full loss in the case and on Thursday (November 22), Hufton was sentenced to five years in prison.
Judge Jonathan Cooper told Hufton during sentencing that the crimes had helped him fund a lavish lifestyle, and said the fraudster took steps to make it harder for his employer to report him.
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust said: “The actions of Philip Hufton were reprehensible.
He had come to the Trust highly recommended and with good references.
However, at a time when NHS finances are under severe pressure, he decided to defraud taxpayers’ money for personal gain.
“He also sought to win the trust of staff with his series of lies.
“He may well have committed further crimes if hadn’t been for the diligence of colleagues who raised initial concerns, and our internal investigators who then alerted Cambridgeshire Constabulary.
“We would like to thank police for their support and the painstaking investigation they undertook.”
●●Phillip Hufton has been jailed for five years