A medical secretary has been jailed after she was caught stealing £385,000 from her surgeon bosses and spending it on fast cars and luxury holidays.
Diane Wilson, 54, more than doubled her salary while she worked for consultant surgeons Dr Peter Binfield and Dr Muhammad Shahid.
Both doctors had NHS and private patients, whose payments Wilson diverted to her account instead of her bosses’.
She spent £20,000 of their money on holidays, £21,000 to pay for her own private healthcare and started driving a Mercedes and a BMW that cost £62,000 in total.
Over nine years Wilson, who uses a wheelchair and lives in Stockton, Warwickshire, had managed to steal £385,000, but was today jailed for three years and four months.
Diane Wilson, 54 (pictured outside court today) more than doubled her salary by fraudulent means while she worked for consultant surgeons Dr Peter Binfield and Dr Muhammad Shahid
Peter Grieves-Smith, prosecuting, said Wilson defrauded two consultant surgeons who had employed her as a medical secretary.
He said: ‘The trust placed in her was large, and she abused it for personal gain. It went to fund a lifestyle which included two particular cars and holidays.’
Judge Andrew Lockhart QC added: ‘Coming into the family must have been well over double the salary for nine or ten years.’
Mr Grieves-Smith said the first five offences covered a period between April 2005 and September 2012 while Wilson worked for Mr Peter Binfield, who carried out NHS work and also had private patients.
Wilson worked from home as his medical secretary, and he even bought furniture for her, as well as paying her a salary of at least £49,000.
Dr Binfield was extremely busy, and trusted Wilson with the banking and payment of invoices, signing cheques without questioning them and even signing blank cheques for her to use.
‘She betrayed that trust by taking cruel advantage,’ the prosecution said.
Mr Grieves-Smith added that when Wilson was on holiday, her role was carried out by another medical secretary, Sonia Bettles.
But as well as arranging genuine payments for work Ms Bettles had undertaken, Wilson put through 41 false invoices for a total of £113,000 which was paid into her own account.
The surgeon’s accountants noticed some anomalies in the record of payments he received for private work, he trust Wilson to such an extent that they were not investigated further.
Eventually he stopped employing her because of her lack of efficiency, but in July 2011 she had written a letter to Bupa, forging Dr Binfield’s signature on it, informing them of a new account into which payments were to be made.
Warwick Crown Court (pictured) heard how Wilson spent £20,000 of the doctors’ money on holidays, £21,000 to pay for her own private healthcare and started driving a Mercedes and a BMW that cost £62,000 in total
That was in fact Wilson’s own account, and as a result she continued receiving payments meant for him until September 2012, a total of more than £111,000.
Wilson sent a similar forged letter to Axa PPP, who ended up paying a total of £103,000 into her account.
‘She has asserted this started because Dr Binfield did not honour an agreement to pay severance.
‘That is not accepted. We say it was greed which caused her to act in this way,’ the prosecution added.
Mr Grieves-Smith pointed out that Wilson moved on to work for another consultant, Muhammad Shahid, and repeated her frauds in a similar way, changing account details and having 20 payments for a total of £27,000 paid into it.
When she was spoken to about that, she claimed she would speak to the person into whose account the money had been paid – but in fact it was her own account.
Mr Grieves-Smith said over the nine-year period Wilson spent over £62,000 on leasing prestige cars including a BMW and a Mercedes, £21,000 on private health care and a minimum of £20,000 on holidays.
Judge Lockhart commented: ‘She was living a lifestyle which would otherwise have been completely beyond their means.’
When she was arrested and questioned, Wilson made no comment, and would not give permission for her bank accounts to be looked at, so court orders had to be obtained.
Jane Brady, defending, said Wilson wanted to read out a letter she had written, but the judge refused to let her do so – and after reading it remarked that there were ‘aspects of it which are unacceptable’.
Miss Brady said Wilson had ‘complex physical and mental health problems,’ including fibromyalgia, osteoporosis and a heart disorder, and was being treated by five consultants.
As well as her physical problems, which have left her confined to a wheelchair, she suffered from severe depression following the traumatic deaths of two of her children.
Arguing that Wilson’s was ‘an exceptional case,’ she said that because of her need for medication ‘at the required time and in the exact dose,’ prison would pose a significant health risk.
But jailing Wilson, Judge Lockhart told her: ‘You began to work for Mr Binfield, a consultant surgeon whose job was to help others, operating on other people to alleviate their pain.’You were his secretary, and
‘Mr Binfield trusted you completely, and you abused that trust year, upon year, upon year, upon year for your own gain.
‘It was only a year into that working relationship that your fraudulent activities began.
‘And when you left his employment, you went and began to prey on Mr Shahid, another consultant. Happily that came to light more quickly.
‘This was a fraud carried out over a very substantial period of time, and there was a degree of sophistication. It was a very substantial breach of trust.
‘I must take into account the reports I have read dealing with your complex physical and mental problems.
‘I cannot countenance anything other than a significant sentence of custody, but I am going to make a significant reduction for your mitigation and health difficulties.’