Headteacher's scam 'cost primary school over £500k'
A corrupt headteacher masterminded a scam that cost the school she ran in a deprived area more than £500,000, a judge heard.
Michelle Hollingsworth systematically syphoned off cash from Annie Lennard Primary in The Oval, Smethwick, for five years that landed them with a loss of at least £513,000, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told.
The 55-year-old, who had worked at the school for 29 years, was helped by its secretary Deborah Jones who was involved in at least £439,000 of the loss, continued Mr Mark Jackson, prosecuting on behalf of Sandwell Council who picked up the bill for the racket.
The pair made 180 visits to boutique stores, as far away as Cheshire, on shopping sprees funded by school cheques.
Hollingsworth, who lives in A £1 million home in Hatherton Park, Cannock, and 57-year-old Jones, from Barrs Road, Cradley Heath, bought everything from expensive designer clothes and shoes to antique furniture and oil paintings.
They plundered more of the school’s money in kick back deals during which tradesmen were paid for work that was either overpriced or invented.
Jones admitted creating work supposedly done by her builder husband.
She also pleaded guilty to conspiring with the headteacher to defraud Sandwell Council which funds Annie Lennard Primary.
She was also convicted of two further charges of conspiring to defraud with other workmen.
Full coverage of the trial
Take a look back at coverage of the trial from the Express & Star's reporting team.
- School fraud trial told of cash for cheques scam claims
- Niece denies family plot in Smethwick school fraud case
- Headteacher's sister-in-law 'paid £12k for child special needs training services'
- Estimated costs for school works 'inadequate', fraud trial hears
- Secretary in school fraud trial says headteacher was behind scam
- Head in school fraud wrangle never saw its bank statements, court told
- Headteacher accused over school fraud 'lied through her teeth'
- Alleged fraudster headteacher 'bought clothes at boutiques for school non-uniform days'
- Alleged fraudster headteacher 'offered secretary cash to take blame'
- Alleged fraudster headteacher ‘wanted cash back on school toilets’
- 'I can’t use a computer' says headteacher at centre of fraud trial
- Estimates for primary school works were inflated, trial told
- Primary school fraud trial told of grudges and gambling debts
- Carpenter admits role in primary school fraud
- Former Smethwick headteacher accused of fraud was 'manipulative'
- Primary school headteacher's family ‘told boyfriend to take fraud blame’
- Black Country primary school headteacher ‘gave contracts to family’
- School secretary 'husband’s firm paid £74k for phantom work'
- Headteacher and secretary 'siphoned thousands from school accounts'
Hollingsworth was found guilty of conspiring to defraud with five other people and an attempt to pervert the course of justice by trying to get carpenter Robert McKeown to take all the blame for his involvement in their deal that involved payment for non existent work.
McKeown pleaded guilty and gave evidence against the headteacher at her trial.
Mr Jackson said he could not say by how much Hollingsworth and Jones had benefited personally.
He added: “It will inevitably have had a serious detrimental effect on staff and pupils at the school.”
Hollingsworth, Jones and five other defendants will be sentenced later today.
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