A fraudster who swindled almost £350,000 out of the NHS after lying on his CV to fund a ‘lavish lifestyle’ has been jailed.
Phillip Hufton of Ack Lane West, Cheadle Hume, Cheshire, worked for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) for 17 months but was sacked after staff discovered his lies.
The 52-year-old claimed to be in Jordan for work when he was on a family holiday, set up a fake email account to authorise his own company expenses of more than £13,000 and ran up a £9,000 invoice bill for a work trip when he was in fact in the USA.
On his CV he pretended to be a doctor and said he had a PhD, Cambridge Crown Court heard.
Hufton also claimed to have been in the army and had saved “countless lives in the UN”. He had photos of himself wearing fake medals which he bought off the internet.
During the course of his employment he also pretended to have cancer and took time off for surgery, which in reality was never carried out.
Based at Fulbourn Hospital, Hufton was employed from September 2014 to January 2016 as a business development manager for the trust, which runs community and mental health services. He was hired to promote the trust’s business in the Middle East.
However, internal investigations were carried out after staff discovered ‘several discrepancies’ in his working time and expenses.
In October 2015, Hufton told the trust he was working in Amman visiting refugee camps, claiming £9,000 in expenses, but GPRS from his phone placed him in the USA and the Caribbean Islands.
Further investigations revealed Hufton emailed a photo of a refugee camp he had found on Google to a colleague, with the title ‘off to the office’.
In December 2015, Hufton booked to stay at the Marriott Hotel in Cambridge and booked a flight to Doha for a four day trip.
The trip was not authorised, but cost the trust £2,837 and at the time Hufton had been off work due to illness.
Hufton was sacked in January 2016 after further internal investigations, and the CPFT then involved the police.
Enquiries about Hufton’s CV found the majority of his educational claims to be false.
He claimed to have a PhD, a master’s degree and five other diplomas. In reality, he only had a Bachelor of Nursing Degree but continued to call himself a doctor.
Cambridge Crown Court heard Hufton also claimed to hold membership of numerous professional bodies, such as the Royal Society of Medicine, but these were all found to have been false or had lapsed.
The total amount of money gained and paid to Hufton throughout his employment was £349,383.
Hufton was arrested and, in interview, admitted he had never paid any income or corporation tax.
He said it was “very hard to remember” what he had done in the web of deceit, and when his lies first started he was living in a tent at Cambridge having suffered marital difficulties.
Hufton admitted claims he’d been in the army were untrue and had actually been an acting captain in the Territorial Army. He said his army medals had been bought off the internet.
Hufton told officers a large amount of his adult life had been lived as a lie and he had “sort of expected” a knock at his door.
He said he built a coping mechanism to keep people at home happy and had tied himself in knots.
At a previous court hearing Hufton pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation on the basis that the financial benefit to him was only £173,000 and not the full amount of £349,383.
However, Cambridge Crown Court considered the full loss in the case and on Thursday (November 22) Hufton was sentenced to five years in prison.
During sentencing Judge Jonathan Cooper told Hufton the offences had helped him fund a lavish lifestyle and he later took steps to make it harder for his employer to report his actions.
Sergeant Andy Denzey said: “In interview with myself and other officers, Hufton initially stated all of this was a big misunderstanding.
“However, over the next hour and a half he eventually admitted that he lied about almost everything. His lies were almost beyond belief.
“He admitted to claiming to be in Jordan whilst actually on holiday in America with his family. He admitted to lying about having cancer.
“Hufton caused a great inconvenience and a large amount of stress to all involved, turning his hand to criminality in order to fund his personal life.
“This is a very positive result from the court and the sentence sends a message to others who may be thinking about lying to gain employment - it will eventually catch up with you.”
A spokesman for CPFT said: “The actions of Philip Hufton were reprehensible. He had come to the trust highly recommended and with good references.
“However, at a time when NHS finances are under severe pressure, he decided to defraud taxpayers’ money for personal gain.
“He also sought to win the trust of staff with his series of lies.
“He may well have committed further crimes if hadn’t been for the diligence of colleagues who raised initial concerns, and our internal investigators who then alerted Cambridgeshire Constabulary.
“We would like to thank police for their support and the painstaking investigation they undertook, and the sentence given to Philip Hufton is entirely appropriate.”