back to article Ministry of Justice bod jailed for stealing £1.7m with fake IT consulting contract

A civil servant who stole £1.7m from the UK's Ministry of Justice through a fake "IT services contract" has been jailed for three-and-a-half years. Allan Williams, 37, formerly a manager in the London-based ministry's commercial and financial control department, set up a £7m purchase order for an "IT services contract" with …

  1. Cronus

    Now that's ironic.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge
      1. BillG
        Devil

        Irony is hypocrisy done with style.

    2. NeilPost Bronze badge

      With £1.4m of lolly he should have duxedniff somewhere like Egypt or The Dominican Republic where there is no Extradition agreement

      Tried to be greedy about disappearing MoJ funds like failed £300m Common Core Platform IT failure. Now that’s criminal.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Good on the whistleblower

    Nice to know that there are some honest workers in government functions that actually have the balls to raise issues when it is necessary.

    That being said, I'm sure the vast majority of civil servants are not going to do such a thing, but this one was in the right place with the right knowledge and acted with the power of his position. In other words, rotten to the core.

    I'm guessing his civil service career is at an end. Welcome to Mc Donalds, sir ! Here's the fryer.

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: Good on the whistleblower

      "Welcome to Mc Donalds, sir ! Here's the fryer."

      Just don't let him near the till.

      1. alain williams Silver badge

        Re: Good on the whistleblower

        Just don't let him near the till.

        I think that Pascal Monett was referring to the whistle blower - the good guy. He could easily find himself pushed out as being too dangerous to have around, he might blow his whistle again about someone else.

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Good on the whistleblower

      I'm guessing his civil service career is at an end. Welcome to Mc Donalds, sir ! Here's the fryer.

      He could do well in his new career - he already has experience of cooking the books

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Good on the whistleblower

      >I'm guessing his civil service career is at an end.

      Singular? Whistleblower and miscreant.

      Misread(?) the comment and thought you were (ironically :) )referring to the whistleblower. But then again...

    4. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: Good on the whistleblower

      I do wonder if that greedy git hadn't of purchase a posh car and house, if they would have looked less suspicious.

      1. NeilPost Bronze badge

        Re: Good on the whistleblower

        Or bought a Villa in Egypt where there is no extradition. Out of sight .... etc.

  3. Efer Brick

    That pesky kid...

    "I would've gotten away with it...."

    And that he did a Gus Gorman?

    1. GrumpyKiwi

      Re: That pesky kid...

      ...if it wasn't for those pesky kids and their dog...?

  4. batfink Silver badge

    Insert joke here

    Hmm. Apparently Sopra Business Consulting was a fake company set up to make taxpayers funds disappear.

    Sopra Steria, on the other hand...

    1. macjules Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Insert joke here

      Could have been worse .. he could have called his company Crapita.

      Mine's the one with the army recruiting contract in the pocket. Just make the cheques out to my new company C.A.S.H please.

    2. Richard 120

      Re: Insert joke here

      Well that's why the guy called his company that. As Sopra Steria provide consulting services to the MoJ it's a very plausible and easily overlooked thing, they'll get invoices from Sopra Steria and invoices from "Sopra Business Consuting" and probably associated one company with the other and it passed by unnoticed.

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: Insert joke here

        Total lack of corporate governance. Almost universal in my experience. Most organisations are just winging it blindly until they get hit. Then there's typically a flurry of ineffectual activity, after which everything rolls on as before. That's why cyber threats don't need to be sophisticated (and usually aren't) - the world and his dog are wide open targets.

        The basic principle of paying attention has long been abandoned.

        1. NeilPost Bronze badge

          Re: Insert joke here

          ... or internal audit/oversight/monthly management accounts.

  5. Mr Dogshit

    Master criminal

    A swift look on Companies House shows that company has one director and one employee... him.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Master criminal

      >A swift look on Companies House shows that company has one director and one employee...

      hum... "Personal Services Company"

      Given the events took place in 2017, HMRC might be interested; Sopra Business Consulting were probably operating inside IR35 and thus there is a rather large amount of unpaid tax due.

    2. Moosh
      Holmes

      Re: Master criminal

      Do you think it wouldn't have been as suspicious if he'd bothered to slap some other names on there and used an alternate/person to transfer funds to? Or does that just complicate the fraud and introduce "unnecessary" risk?

      These two recent incidents seem to have had the blokes being the sole employees of their fake companies and also them directly transferring funds to themselves.

      Aren't there places you could funnel the money through? Offshore accounts, etc.? I know you can pay for fake employees; my Fianceé had an interview at a scam company that we discovered, despite being "huge in the US and looking to open 10 offices in the UK", had only 40 employees on linkedin, the majority being from India and Nigeria (with the CEO listed as being peruvian)

      1. Dog Eatdog

        Re: Master criminal

        And the company has a website which is just a template waiting to be filled in:

        http://soprabusinessconsulting.com/

        Maybe this is what raised the underling's suspicions?

        1. Moosh

          Re: Master criminal

          Honestly, how could you put so little effort into a scam worth millions of pounds?

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    two in two weeks

    Two guys who got caught with a phony company billing for non-existent services, the second one taking it to the next level, pinching from the MOJ. These guys must have dropped out of "using skillz for fun and profit" course before the 'covering your tracks' chapter?

  7. Erik4872

    This is surprisingly easy until it blows up

    Most large companies/agencies have so many POs and invoices flying around that it's easy to slip one in if you control both ends of the approval chain.

    It's lucky someone decided to be honest after figuring out what was going on and report it. I wonder if the guy asked him to go in on it with him for a cut of the take.

  8. FlamingDeath
  9. HildyJ Silver badge
    Devil

    Then again

    Glad he got what he deserves and glad there was a whistleblower with the guts to come forward.

    OTOH, I wish the same justice could be meted out to consultants with legitimate companies who bill the government for worthless work.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Then again

      A million quid lost is a fraud, a billion quid lost is a government IT project, a trillion quid is a too-big-too-fail bailout

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Previously he and his family had lived in a three-bed semi in Essex.

    Motivation.

  11. TDog

    With benefits

    Does he keep his pension?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's not a bad rate of return: £1.7M less the £900k recovered means he's up £800k.

    A 3.5 year sentence will see him automatically released after 21 months making it approx £40k per month in jail.

    His only stupidity was not buying a foreign citizenship, sending all his cash offshore, hidden in foreign company accounts (in multiple layers across several jurisdictions), ultimately owned by his new foreign credentials. Then using a foreign company to pay him a stipend from which he could have rented cars and his house, protecting the capital value against if/when he was caught.

    Obviously I haven't thought about this at all! :D

    Oh and now he's inside, he'll get a free university education to pop out a Masters degree or 2, just for fun. :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      To get away with it completely the guy just needed a brother-in-law who could have turned up once a week and sat in a corner of the office staring at a laptop screen for a few hours.

    2. rmason

      The missing money will be (mostly) in the house purchase. They'll sell that, just not this quickly.

    3. SpammFreeEmail

      You can't pay yourself a stipend.....that's traceable and forensic accountants are pretty good these days.

      There's much more effective ways to hide money or even better wash it so you get it clean and legit when you know how.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        How would you wash the money SpammFreeEmail?

        If the money was offshore he could have just used a foreign credit card or pre-paid card. Or I have heard it's even possible to get a foreign credit card with no name on!

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    WTF?

    "Sophisticated." RU f**king kidding me?

    Let me guess.

    Same guy can initiate a project as sign off on the expenditure for that project. Companies house check shows it's one man band with him as sole director.

    That's always an accident waiting to happen. How many others at his grade also have that power?

    And let's not forget £1.22m is about the "Average" UK citizens salary (that's of working citizens because that figure never takes into account people on benefits, which should make the average much lower) lifetime salary.

    1. JimmyPage
      FAIL

      Re: "Sophisticated." RU f**king kidding me?

      The prosecution (on behalf of the scammed) are obliged to say this. After all if they trumpeted to all and sundry how easy it was, the court case becomes an advert, not a deterrent.

      It's the same with people growing the odd cannabis plant. All of a sudden a timer a pump and a carbon filter becomes a "highly sophisticated setup". Simple cross-breeding becomes "genetic engineering" and paying your electricity bill becomes a move "designed to evade detection".

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: "Sophisticated." RU f**king kidding me?

        The judge who sat at the trial of Oscar Wilde (for having gay sex) said the case was the worst he'd ever seen.

        It was also the first case he'd ever seen for gay sex.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: "Sophisticated." RU f**king kidding me?

      I expect the scam is a bit more "sophisticated" than the explanation provides for. I mean, the fake company probably has stationery and business cards and such. The bloke might even be doing the work being charged for, but during MoJ time perhaps.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The way he got found out

    Was when they noticed that his non-existent IT services were both cheaper and more efficient than the usual government contracting. Stood out like a sore thumb.

  15. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Holmes

    Greed

    If he'd stopped at £1m he would've got away without and at the same time been financially secure. The fact he was going for £7m shows that he was just too greedy.

    1. Moosh

      Re: Greed

      That's the crux of a lot of failed scams; over confidence and increasing scope. They trick themselves into thinking that because its been going smoothly, they can continue the scheme for grander scope; "wow, I've made a million already and people are none the wiser; I could easily keep this going for more money."

      Knowing when to stop is a valuable skill in pretty much every part of life. He'd also probably adjusted his life according to his new income and was unwilling - or perhaps at that point genuinely unable - to stop the scheme.

      I'm reminded of the guy who committed suicide by throwing himself off his penthouse balcony because he'd lost a billion of his company's money trading out of office hours and privately. He'd managed to make a few million at first, for a few weeks/months, but when he finally lost money he just desperately tried to recoup it because otherwise he'd have to face the consequences of his actions. He stayed up all night desperately trying to gain things back but just sunk himself deeper and deeper into the hole. Faced with the prospect of severe legal action and never being able to work again, he ended his life.

  16. SpammFreeEmail

    It's not greed, it's human nature........

    A long time ago a friend told me a story that his grandfather had told him years before......

    If you take five really good friends, on a Friday night, having a beer in the pub and chatting...

    Now put £25 in the middle of the table and tell them to help themselves, they/ll all take a fiver and be happy.

    Now take the same friends, on the same night, in the same pub....

    Put £25,000,000 on the table and watch them quickly start to argue over who deserves what cut.

    People get emotionally invested in 'property and other baubles' because that's what society conditions them to as important, few have the wherewithal to work out what really makes them content rather then short term 'latest toy' endorphin rush.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: It's not greed, it's human nature........

      If you have the actual £25 million to try the experiment with then I volunteer to participate ;-)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you have upwardly mobile aspirations as this chap clearly did, and you want money to cover off:

    Decent mortgage free house

    Putting kids through private school and send them to university

    Clearing of credit card debts

    Second hand but "respectable" fairly low mileage family cars

    You're already somewhere in the region of £1m, at which point, you may as well go a bit further to really make it worth your while...

  18. VulcanV5

    A civil servant who knows something about IT????!!! How the judge came to uphold the prosecution's case is a mystery.

  19. CPU

    Where were the auditors? Where were the senior managers who are supposed to check? Seems to me the problem was allowed to happen because the higher ups didn't care. Took a grunt in the trenches to spot the fraud.

  20. Anonymous IV
    Facepalm

    The wisdom of lawyers...

    "This was a sophisticated fraud … and would have resulted in further loss to the taxpayer if it had not been discovered."

    You don't say!

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