School Business Manager Jailed

A 64 year old woman has been sentenced to three years in prison for committing fraud by abuse of position.

Sandra Ross of Stone Croft in Meopham, appeared at Maidstone Crown Court on Friday 26 October after previously pleading guilty to 23 counts of fraud following a joint investigation between Kent Police and Medway Council into the misappropriation of funds at Temple Mill Primary School.

Ross, who was business manager at the school in Cliffe Road, Strood, was arrested on 9 March 2011 following a number of unauthorised payments from the school’s account, which totalled £212,166.

The fraudulent activity came to light after Medway Council carried out an internal audit of the school’s bank account, which identified a number of transactions not deemed normal payments.

Ross, who had access to Temple Hill’s debit card and made the majority of the purchases on behalf of the school, debited the school account in multiple unauthorised transactions over a number of years. The investigation identified offences from as far back as 2005.

When questioned, Ross admitted to using the school account to fund her mother’s care home bills and paid back £41,656.27 to the school, leaving £170,509.73 unaccounted for.

Further investigation revealed Ross was unable to provide documentation for a number of unauthorised transactions made from the school’s account, which included a deposit for a brand new Mercedes Benz, a laptop, clothing and furniture.

There was also a payment made to her husband’s credit card as well as payments for personal decorating services, stone masonry, a skip hire company and payments to BUPA and Age Concern for family members.

It was established that Ross, who has since been formally dismissed from her position with the school, was amending data on the monthly documents to the council in a deliberate attempt to hide what she was doing.

North Division’s Detective Constable, Kim Jordan, said: ‘This investigation was long and protracted due to the multiple transactions that were under investigation and the time period during which these offences were committed.

‘Ross was in a position of trust, which she totally disregarded for her own personal financial gain and she made every effort to try to disguise her dishonesty from her colleagues, the head teacher and Medway Council.
‘She deprived Temple Mill Primary School and its pupils of much needed funds and every effort will now be made to reclaim the outstanding money.

‘I hope today’s verdict acts as a deterrent for others.’