Council worker jailed for ‘sophisticated and devious’ theft of £260,000 meant for care homes
A council worker who stole more than £260,000 meant for care homes has been jailed for four years.
Grandmother Karen Kavanagh, 60, took the money over a period of almost 11 years while working as payments team leader for Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council in Merseyside.
She pleaded guilty to fraud at Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday.
Tom Watson, prosecuting, told the court Kavanagh (pictured), who had worked for the council since 1980, used a “sophisticated” and “devious” system to direct payments to her bank account.
The court heard she would access a list of cheques which had been issued but were unpresented and would normally be voided.
Instead, she would make the payments to herself, before changing the details in the system back to the original supplier.
Mr Watson said: “The fraudulent transactions were targeted and related to residential care homes.”
Her offending came to light in April 2019 when one nursing home made a query about a payment, he said.
Investigations showed Kavanagh, of Malvern Close in Kirkby, had made 122 payments to herself since March 2008.
The court heard Kavanagh, who was suspended after the discovery, had taken flexible retirement in 2015 and worked part-time as well as receiving a pension from the council.
In a statement read to the court, James Duncan, executive director for the council, said she had been well-respected by colleagues.
He said: “They have been devastated by how a colleague they had previously trusted and worked so closely with could act in this way.”
Sentencing, Judge Brian Cummings QC said Knowsley was the third most deprived authority area in England.
He said: “It provides for and has responsibility for a very significant number of people who, for financial or other reasons, are in a position of vulnerability.
“The effect of the fraud, inevitably, has been to direct moneys away from those people, moneys that would otherwise have been available to support those most in need.
“All of this at a time when, across the land applying in particular to this local authority, budgets have been cut.”
Peter White, defending, said Kavanagh had been in a financially abusive relationship with the father of her daughter, who she had when she was 21, and loans had been taken out jointly by them.
He said the man abandoned her, leaving her with no financial support and debts, and had since died.
Mr White said: “She was shocked when she heard the total figure was in excess of £260,000. She is adamant she has not been living any sort of luxurious lifestyle during this period.”
He said the mother-of-one, who was of previously good character, still had debts of more than £77,000 and was in arrears with payments.
He added: “What she believed would be a one-off unfortunately snowballed to a total of 122 transactions and the astronomical amount that is in the indictment.”
Kavanagh, who was wearing a red coat, showed no reaction as she was sentenced.
Judge Cummings said: “I am conscious that the effect of custody, certainly for a significant but unspecifiable period of time, will be likely yet more onerous by reason of the effects of the present coronavirus situation.
“It’s likely to have caused even greater anxiety than would otherwise have been the case.”
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