Manager scammed Newham Council of �200,000 with ‘ghost workers’

Court told swindler masterminded gang and holidayed on council cash

A Youth Offending Team boss accused of masterminding a plot to steal �200,000 from the taxpayer used local authority cash to fund a series of trips of Canada, a court heard last week.

Peter Nicholson, 58, allegedly led a gang of fraudsters who claimed wages for bogus employees at Newham Council.

He also arranged trips to Canada for himself and relatives - all paid for by the local authority, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.

On one occasion he and ten others enjoyed a holiday which cost �4,000, jurors heard.

The alleged fraud took place while he was head of the Youth Offending Team at Newham Council between May 20, 2000 and August 31, 2007.

His duties involved co-ordinating efforts to rehabilitate young people who had committed crimes.

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Nicholson allegedly authorised three ‘ghost employees’ to be paid by the local authority when they did not exist as a way of siphoning off cash.

His ex-wife Sheila Butler, 55, is also accused of claiming fraudulent payments through her council staffing business, Capability.

It was said the payments were arranged by Nicholson’s finance officer Shirin Bazrcar, 51, also the manager of staffing agency Excel Employment.

Payments made to Bazrcar allegedly included �64,000 paid into her (Bazrcar’s) 16-year-old son ‘s bank account.

Her firm employed David Tuck, 51, who ran Lads Construction Ltd with his wife Lorna Tuck, 45, and was allegedly paid thousands by the council for non-existent building projects.

Nicholson’s friend Christopher Smith, 48, and sister-in-law Kerry Butler, 46, are also accused of involvement in the scheme.

The former YOT boss denies misconduct in a public office and five counts of conspiracy to defraud while his co-defendants all deny conspiracy to defraud and money laundering offences.

Alexander Goudie, prosecuting, said the total amount stolen from the taxpayer was in the region of �200,000.

He said: “This case involves various allegations of fraud being perpetrated against the London Borough of Newham by former employees. Firstly the payment of wages to people who never actually worked at the local authority and in some cases didn’t even exist - we call them ghost employees.

“The second part relates to trips abroad that were paid for by the London Borough of Newham. Peter Nicholson is the former head of the Youth Offending Team and the ex-partner of Sheila Butler.

He was involved in the bulk of the frauds including falsely employing David Tuck and three other individuals, who we say did no work at all for the council.’

Nicholson, from Bexleyheath, Kent, denies misconduct in a public office and five counts of conspiracy to defraud.

Bazrcar, from Hook, Hampshire, denies five counts of conspiracy to defraud and two of money laundering.

David Tuck, from Somerset, denies three counts of conspiracy to defraud and one of money laundering while his wife, of the same address, denies two counts of conspiracy to defraud.

Sheila Butler, of Abbey Wood, southeast London, denies conspiracy to defraud and her sister, of Erith, Kent, denies two counts of the same offence. Smith, of Glendale Road, Erith, Kent, denies one count of conspiracy to defraud.

The trial continues and is expected to last eight weeks.