Crooked Newham Council youth offending chief jailed

17:00 11 July 2012

Council employee with OBE stole nearly £300,000 from local authority

A Youth Offending Team boss honoured by the Queen has been jailed for stealing almost £300,000 from Newham Council to fund his holidays.

Peter Nicholson OBE, 58, fronted a gang of fraudsters who claimed wages for ‘ghost’ employees of the council.

Nicholson arranged trips to Canada for himself and relatives, all at the expense of the local authority, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.

In February 2005, he and 10 others had a 10-day break in Canada worth £4,000.

Nicholson, from Bexleyheath, claimed the council had “rewarded” him with the holiday after he was made an OBE, a title he is now likely to lose. But investigators rejected his claim as the trip had been booked before the New Year Honours List was announced.

He had previously booked a nine-day break to Canada for himself and his daughter using council funds in 2002.

The con took place while he was head of the Youth Offending Team between May 20, 2000, and August 31, 2007.

Nicholson’s duties involved co-ordinating efforts to rehabilitate young people who had committed crimes.

He was found guilty of five counts of conspiracy to defraud following an eight-week trial.

Nicholson authorised payment of three non-existant employees by the council in order to syphon off the cash.

The payments were arranged by his finance officer, Shirin Bazrcar, 51, the boss of staffing agency Excel Employment, which received more than £65,000.

Bazrcar’s firm hired David Tuck, 52, who ran Lads Construction and was paid thousands of pounds by the council for bogus building work.

Nicholson was jailed for five and half years and Bazrcar, of Hook, Hampshire, received a four-year sentence after being found guilty of four counts of conspiracy to defraud and two counts of money laundering.

Tuck, of Bexley, was said to have been “brought into” the scam by Nicholson and to have played a lesser role, received an 18-month jail sentence after being convicted of three counts of conspiracy to defraud and one of money laundering.

Passing sentence, Judge Neil Sanders said Nicholson had abused the “very high degree of trust” placed in him by the council by setting up the “sophisticated” scam.

Prosecutor Alexander Goudie said the total amount stolen was £281,771.90.

He added that payments had been put into accounts held by Bazrcar’s 16-year-old son, Ali. The address given for one ‘ghost’ was registered in the name of Nushan Mostani, Bazrcar’s sister.

Scott Wainwright, defending Nicholson, said he was a “broken man” and had lost everything due to the scam.

“During his tenure at the council he did some very positive work, with the Youth Offending Team being taken from the bottom to the top of the league.”

Martin McCarthy, for Bazrcar, said she suffered from a “troubled” mental state after the trial, leading her to undergo treatment.

Nicholson’s sister-in-law, Kerry Butler, 46, was found not guilty of a single count of money laundering but will face a retrial in November on a charge of conspiracy to defraud, after the jury failed to reach a verdict.

His ex-wife, Sheila Butler, was cleared of involvement on the judge’s direction.

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