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A real-life case study of recruitment fraud

Every once in a while, recruitment fraud stories break into the news and you find it difficult to believe they are actually true. One of the most colourful involved the CEO of Console, an Irish suicide awareness charity, who was eventually exposed by police when he was being arrested for financial fraud of around £500k. In this tragic case (he committed suicide last year), he was exposed as a fantasist and had even been seen masquerading (in uniform) as an Airline Pilot and a Priest.

A recent fraud case in England, involving a man called Jon Andrewes, ended in a jail term of two years and a failed attempt by his employers to take back over £640,000 of the salary he had been paid. Jon Andrewes did have a qualification as a Social Worker, but when he applied and was accepted for the Chief Executive role at St Margaret’s Hospice in 2004, he had to meet the essential criteria for the job, which included a degree and 10 years management experience, with three years in a senior appointment. The desirable criteria included an MBA and five years in a senior appointment.

In his application form, he claimed he had:

• A joint honours degree from Bristol University in Social Policy and Politics, as well as an MPhil in Poverty and Social Justice from the same university
• A Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Edinburgh University
• In the course of studying for a PhD in Ethics and Management at Plymouth University
• An Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting (CIMA)
• Been the Chief Executive of at least two charities, which would have covered the senior management requirements within the essential criteria.

The Hospice was delighted to get such a well-qualified and experienced candidate for the role and appointed him, even though, as the Daily Mail reported this month, he was challenged about the spelling of his name not matching his birth certificate – both his first name and surname have very strange spellings. Despite that, what a catch! But that wasn’t the only catch – none of this was true.

Jon Andrewes stayed as CEO until 2015, even telling staff to call him “Dr”, having claimed to have completed his non-existent PhD in 2006.

But the fraud doesn’t end there. “Dr Jon”, as we will now call him, also applied for and was successful in being appointed for a number of non-executive remunerated roles within the NHS:

• Non-executive Director at Torbay NHS Care Trust from 2007-2015, even becoming Chairman from 2012
• In 2015, Dr Jon was further appointed as Chairman of the Royal Cornwall NHS Hospital Trust

However, by 2015, a potential fraud case within the hospice came to light. Dr Jon was tried and acquitted in this case, but during the case, his various applications for jobs were assessed and the information provided did not match. Dr Jon was in big trouble, lost his employment, before pleading guilty to both fraud and deception and being handed a two-year jail sentence in 2016.

Any lessons learned? Where do you start, apart from the obvious point that maybe the qualifications and experience required for these roles weren’t needed at all – he did stay in his CEO post for eleven years?

It could be argued that back in 2004, there wasn’t the same sort of verification service to check identities (the weird spelling of his name that didn’t match his birth certificate worries me more than most), degrees etc, but that could have been rectified by requesting paper copies, at the very least!

Employment references have been requested both verbally and in writing for years. There is no excuse for them not being taken up for such a senior post. Interestingly, it would be useful to identify just what the policy is within the NHS Public Appointments team for confirming previous roles – they obviously must have been aware of both his CEO appointment and his other NHS role and may have taken that at face value, but the reality is that both roles were achieved through deception.

How can you avoid this happening to you? SureCert’s mission is for employers to “Trust but Verify” and we provide a wide range of digitised background checking tools that can provide rapid, frictionless candidate verification in a very cost effective and efficient way. And it’s not just new candidates, why not do a quick check of your current workforce today to ensure you don’t have any “Dr Jon’s” on your current payroll. If it can happen to the NHS, it can happen to anyone.

The summary of the final case is here –

https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/2020/1055.html

 

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