Former council business rates officer Matthew Ravey sentenced to 18 months in prison
Date published: 06 February 2019
Former Rochdale Borough Council business rates officer Matthew Ravey has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after appearing at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court on Wednesday (6 February).
Ravey, 28, of Weir Road, Rochdale, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud and one count of theft and was sentenced to one year and six months.
Ravey was charged with three counts of fraud and theft in July 2017 after abusing his position as business rates officer at Rochdale Council, to fraudulently transfer £80k to his friends.
Ravey was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £140.
Ravey also created false insolvency documents for himself and friends while working at Rochdale Borough Council, in an attempt to avoid reimbursing payday loan companies he was in debt to.
His career at Rochdale Borough Council began in October 2013, when he was hired as a business rates officer, earning just under £18,000.
In June 2016, an employee looked into a business rates refund that Ravey had processed after noticing it by chance.
Ravey had applied a period of empty property relief totalling £4,208 on a company named Kinetic Security Products Ltd, despite records showing the company dissolved in 2014.
He created a new bank account and creditor address associated with the business that in fact belonged to co-conspirators Richard Rigby, 29, of Windmill Court, Rochdale and Andrew Foster, 31, of Smithybridge Road, Littleborough.
When confronted by a fellow employee, Ravey initially claimed he was correcting an existing error. When it was pointed out there was no error, he began denying he ever accessed the account.
An internal investigation was launched and it was found that Ravey had altered banking and addresses of other businesses to make 26 separate fraudulent transfers between January 2015 and June 2016.
Among the transfers were two payments totalling £3,274 to Jason Hurst, 48, of Bolton, who later admitted in police interview to spending the money on cocaine and prostitutes.
There were seven transfers to Michael Frames, 28, of Milbury Drive, Littleborough totalling just under £15,000. Frames was an NHS employee at the time, and arranged the fraud using his NHS email account. He has since left the NHS.
In total, £73,232 was transferred to his friends including Daniel Merriman, 27, of Hurstead Road, Milnrow, and Richard Rigby.
Ravey’s works computer was also found to contain fraudulent insolvency documents.
The investigation revealed that he used these documents to obtain arrangements from loan companies to avoid paying off what he had borrowed – either having the loans written off or repayments on them significantly reduced.
He also offered this service to his friends – emailing one: “I have used it on three loans I had in the past. Two have been written off completely…BOOM xx.”
The fraud was worth a total £80,517 and the loss to Rochdale Borough Council was worth £76,308.
A council spokesperson said: “This was a serious breach of trust from a former council employee who has let down the council and his colleagues. We take any allegation of fraud seriously and this matter was immediately reported to the police after our robust procedures uncovered evidence of criminal behaviour.
“Through a zero tolerance approach, we will always take action to ensure that justice is done and this was underlined by this successful prosecution.”
Detective Constable Sarah Langley of GMP’s Fraud Disruption Team said: “It’s clear from correspondence that Ravey imagined himself as some sort of criminal mastermind who’d concocted a fool-proof plan to get rich while avoiding his debtors.
“But frankly, the decision to use his employer’s email address to orchestrate it was one of many frankly bizarre factors in his ill-considered scam.
“After being confronted, he even tried to deny he’d done anything wrong – despite the paper chain from his computer clearly implicated him and his co-conspirators in his desperately flawed con job.
“Let’s not forget this was public money. Everyone – not least taxpayers in Rochdale – should be disgusted by his actions.”
In addition to Ravey, six other people were charged in relation to this offence.
Foster pleaded guilty to one charge of concealing criminal property and sentenced to a 12 months community order, 55 hours' unpaid work and a victim surcharge of £85.
Frames pleaded guilty to one charge of concealing criminal property and sentenced to a 12 months community order, 100 hours' unpaid work and a victim surcharge of £85.
Richard Rigby was sentenced at a previous hearing at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court on 4 February 2019 to complete 64 hours unpaid work after pleading guilty to one count of money laundering.
Hurst was sentenced at a previous hearing at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court on 21 November 2018 to complete 100 hours unpaid work after pleading guilty to one count of theft.
Merriman was sentenced at a previous hearing at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court on 8 January 2019 to complete 80 hours unpaid work after pleading guilty to one count of money laundering.
A warrant for Thomas Rigby is outstanding.
A proceeds of crime hearing is scheduled to take place on 17 May 2019.
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