Bogus claim trio to pay back money

Michael Skirving

Michael Skirving

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A FORMER council chief and two businessmen mates jailed for fleecing a local authority out of over £100,000 have been ordered to pay back most of the money.

Hartlepool man Michael Skirving, who was head of Darlington Borough Council’s asbestos department, got pals Martin Dougherty and James Burns to submit bogus invoices to the council and pocketed the proceeds.

His department had been in charge of contracts to remove asbestos from a range of properties in the region.

Skirving, 51, gave Dougherty, and Burns, 45, details of lucrative jobs so they could falsify claims which Skirving later signed off in his council role.

A proceeds of crime application at Teesside Crown Court to claw back the ill-gotten gains revealed the scam made £109,494 for the men.

Skirving, previously of Grange Road, Hartlepool, made £54,747 from the fraud.

Dougherty, previously of Westbrooke Avenue, Hartlepool, pocketed £37,877, and Burns, previously of Wansbeck Gardens, Hartlepool, made £16,870 out of the deal.

The three men were all found guilty of conspiring to defraud the council after a trial in September 2011.

The case heard Dougherty’s business, MBN Roofing and Builders, was paid more than £75,000 by the council for labour after he submitted 15 bogus invoices for work in Hartlepool, Billingham and Middlesbrough.

Burns submitted invoices for £33,000 for the supply of a cherry picker in connection with work in Hartlepool including at Owton Manor.

But the jury found the work was either not carried out at all or not done to the extent which was claimed for.

Skirving was jailed for 18 months while Dougherty was given one year’s prison and Burns six months jail.

At sentencing Judge Peter Armstrong said it had been “systematic fraud”.

Dougherty and Burns were ordered to pay back the full amounts after investigations of their finances found they had enough available assets.

But Skirving was found to have only £14,761 available out of the £54,747 gained.

The money will be paid as compensation to the council’s insurers Zurich which has already paid out on the loss. The judge gave each man six months to pay it back or they face nine months prison.