Former railway boss and assistant avoid jail time over seven-year string of bogus expense claims
PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 February 2020
A former rail boss who admitted scamming GWR out of more than £10,000 by filling bogus expense claims has been spared jail.
Mark Heffernan, from Chudleigh in Devon, defrauded the rail company out of £10,530 by making illicit claims for alcohol, hotels and travel for 'team building', while his personal assistant, Jennifer Perry, 46, of Pill, signed off alcohol expenses totalling £3,281 between June 2009 and December 2016.
Bristol Crown Court heard how Heffernan had rubber-stamped claims for alcohol, even though alcohol could not be claimed on GWR expenses, and billed the company for hotel stays he made with his wife.
At a hearing on February 17, Judge Martin Picton sentenced Heffernan to a year in prison, suspended for a year, ordered the 47-year-old to compensate GWR fully and pay £1,800 court costs.
Judge Picton said: "Your offending has cost you your good character and it also cost you a senior position within GWR for whom you had worked, it would seem, very effectively for many years.
"The vast majority of it was aimed at supporting and rewarding the team who you managed in a way you clearly thought would be effective as a tool to good performance.
"You chose, however, to break the rules in order to cover costs that were not legitimately recoverable via the expenses system and that has cost you very dear."
Meanwhile, Perry was fined £500 and ordered to pay £500 in court costs.
Picton told her: "You did not act out of greed or in order to benefit yourself.
"You are a person of previous good character and have had to spend many months with much more serious charges than the one to which you eventually pleaded guilty hanging over your head."
Prosecuting, Benjamin Aina said Heffernan had worked for GWR for 28 years, working his way up from head of drivers to deputy operations director, earning an annual salary of £91,000 plus bonuses.
The court heard Perry had acted on instructions from Heffernan and tried to hide purchases in claims for 'food and beverages'.
Heffernan, who resigned from the company, said in a prepared statement he recognised he had strayed into the wrong side of policy.
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