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Sunday, 25 February

21 Up - Four Down

Four men have been sentenced after they were found guilty of defrauding Severn Trent Water (STW) out of hundreds of thousands of pounds, through the fraudulently sales of properties which were owned by the company.

A jury at Birmingham Crown Court heard how 50-year old Edward Barker joined STW in June 2009 and was employed to manage their housing stock portfolio, which included the sale of houses.

Over an 18-month period, Barker identified a total of 21 houses to sell in Minworth, Stourbridge, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Leicester, Gloucester, Tamworth, Oldbury and Newent. Some of these properties were recalled before completion following the discovery of the fraud.

Rather than follow the correct procedures, Barker undervalued these properties through fake valuations and failed to advertise the sale to the general public. The houses were instead sold to his friends and associates at an artificially low price and then put on the open market at full price in order to maximise the profit made.

Following a complaint made by a member of the public to the utility company relating to the lack of marketing on the sale of a house in Minworth, STW conducted an internal investigation. Police were then informed of the fraud and the defendants were arrested.

The following individuals were all charged with and found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and jailed accordingly:

  • Edward Barker - sentenced to three years.
  • Manoj Chohan, 49 - sentenced to 21 months, suspended for two years.
  • Terry Croft, 50 - sentenced to 12 month community order with 120 hours unpaid work.
  • Dinesh Chudasama, 51 - sentenced to two years, suspended for two years

A fifth member of the gang, 44-yearold Matthew Biggin, pleaded guilty to the fraud at an earlier hearing and he was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for two years.

Victoria Jones, Senior Crown Prosecutor from the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service's Complex Casework Unit, said: "Edward Barker abused his position of trust and defrauded his employers over a 18 month period.

"Due to his knowledge and experience, he was able to falsify documents, manipulate processes and procedures, in order to sell the properties below the market price to his known associates.

"The defendants then sold the properties at the market value, maximising their profits and causing a loss to STW."

Picture: The Severn Trent  Minworth gas to grid for illustration purposes only

Article written by Brian Shillibeer

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