Lincolnshire mastermind of £165k 'ghost worker' scam is jailed
A construction manager who masterminded a wages scam of "ghost workers" – which defrauded his employers out of more than £165,000 – has been jailed for three years.
Balfour Beatty operations manager Sean Sullivan, 46, pocketed £91,000 in false wages by authorising payments to two bogus workers who were not employed by the company.
Lincoln Crown Court heard Sullivan eventually involved two other senior managers from the firm in the fraud. They included his younger brother Paul, 41, and Christopher Lang, 46, who was paid around £50,000 in wages despite never working for Balfour Beatty.
Andrew Scott, prosecuting, said the nature of the fraud, which ran over five years from November 2005 to March 2011, was "quite simple."
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"Bogus employees were created and their personal details put on the payroll. Time sheets were then created and signed off by the managers," Mr Scott told the court.
"The main architect was Sean Sullivan. He came up with the plan and involved his friend, Christopher Lang. He put him on a Balfour Beatty contract with Yorkshire Water, but Christopher Lang did not work for Balfour Beatty. His employment was a sham."
The court heard wages were paid straight into Lang's bank account, which he then split with Sean Sullivan.
Sean Sullivan, who was on a £50,000 a year salary, asked his brother Paul, who was employed as a reinstatement manager, to authorise Lang's time sheets.
Paul Sullivan authorised payments of £60,000 to Lang but made no financial gain himself, the court was told. Mr Scott said Lang was then moved to a Central Networks contract where he received wages of more than £12,000. "Once again it was a sham," Mr Scott added.
Lang kept around £4,200 with Sean Sullivan pocketing £8,500.
Finally, Sean Sullivan recruited Balfour Beatty contracts manager, Craig Topley, 38, for a third contract falsely employing Lang, with Anglian Water. In total, net wages of £32,000 were paid to Lang, which was then split three ways between the trio.
The frauds came to light when Balfour Beatty received two anonymous letters concerning another scam involving Sean Sullivan and Topley, who was employed by the company on an annual £60,000 salary.
It was discovered painter Darren Statham, 42, had been employed by Balfour Beatty as a "grab driver" but had in fact decorated the homes of both Sean Sullivan and Topley, receiving just under £10,000 in net wages from the company.
The company traced Christopher Lang after holding its own investigation.
He later admitted being approached by Sean Sullivan who asked him to become involved because of his financial problems. Topley said he was unaware of the two other contracts involving Lang and Sean Sullivan. In total over £218,000 in gross wages and national insurance payments were made by Balfour Beatty to Lang, with a net wage figure of just under £153,000.
Sean Sullivan, of Adelaide Close, Waddington, admitted a charge of obtaining property by deception from Balfour Beatty and three related three fraud offences.
Christopher Lang, of Lincoln Road, Saxilby, admitted one charge of theft. He was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work.
Craig Topley, of Flinders Way, Cherry Willingham, pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud. He was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for two years and 125 hours of unpaid work.
Darren Statham, of Dunmore Close, Lincoln, admitted one charge of fraud. He was placed under the supervision of a probation officer for six months and ordered to complete 125 hours of unpaid work.
Paul Sullivan, of Salisbury Close, Saxilby, admitted one charge of obtaining property by deception from Balfour Beatty. He was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 12 months and 250 hours of unpaid work.
Passing sentence Recorder Gareth Evans told all five men: "You all took part in what was the theft of money from Balfour Beatty.
"You Sean Sullivan were the instigator of all that went on. You got into trouble with gambling and saw the way out through creating ghost employees."
In a statement Balfour Beatty said: "We are committed to identifying and eradicating any malpractice and have a policy of pursing prosecution."