Monday, January 23, 2023

Ex-MP ‘tried to ask for up to £30,000 to fund extensive cocaine habit’

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Jared O’Mara, 41, representing the constituency Sheffield Hallam from 2017 to 2019 is on trial for submitting “dishonest” bills to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).

jury by leeds The Crown Court heard that between June and August 2019 he made four claims against Ipsa from a “fictitious” organization called Confident About Autism SY and submitted two bills from his “chief of staff” Gareth Arnold for media and public relations work, one of which prosecutors say they never took place.

O’Mara, who appeared in court via video link on Monday, is also accused of filing a false employment contract for his friend John Woodliff by “pretending” Woodliff worked for him as a constituency officer.

O’Mara is charged with eight counts of fraud by misrepresentation, Arnold is charged jointly with six of the offenses and Woodliff is jointly charged with one offense.

Prosecutor James Bourne-Arton said Ipsa – the organization set up after the expenses scandal to regulate MPs’ staff and business expenses – did not pay any of the claims due to a lack of evidence any of the work had been carried out .

“Prosecutors say Jared O’Mara viewed Ipsa and the taxpayer money they managed as a source of income that he could claim and use as he pleased, not least to indulge in his extensive cocaine addiction,” Mr. Bourne said -Arton.

“Arnold and Woodliff were old friends of Jared O’Mara and unfortunately were persuaded to agree with his dishonest claims.”

The court heard that Arnold, a longtime friend of O’Mara, went to see him South Yorkshire Police in the summer of 2019 after he “reached a point where he was no longer willing to engage in the scam”.

In Arnold’s call to police, which was played to the jury, he said: “It’s a little difficult, but yesterday I spoke to the 999 service and the mental health crisis team about my employer, who I believe is suffers from a severe psychotic episode and has delusions of conspiracy against him.

“I also think he’s been filing fake expense reports with the government lately.”

The allegedly fraudulent bills included £19,400 in support of Confident About Autism SY and £4,650 for Arnold.

Mr Bourne-Arton said Confident About Autism SY was “a Jared O’Mara invention that he hoped to slip through as a legitimate claim, no doubt to hide behind the fact that it was related to his disability if it was ever in question is provided”.

He told jurors there was no evidence Arnold conducted any training or counseling and that “legitimate employees” working for O’Mara at the time had never heard of him.

All invoices were either rejected or not processed, with one being rejected by Ipsa three times in June and July.

“(Ipsa) staff found that the invoices, particularly those from Confident About Autism, were in different formats, had conflicting references and in one case were dated after they were submitted for payment,” Mr. Bourne said -Arton.

The jury was told that at the time Ipsa O’Mara was raising concerns about the claims, South Yorkshire Police were made aware of the alleged fraud when Arnold called them on 2 July 2019.

Mr Bourne-Arton said: “Arnold described what was undoubtedly a sad state in which O’Mara appeared unable to perform his duties, was in poor mental health and was heavily dependent on cocaine, which he consumed in prodigious amounts abused. “

The court heard a financial investigation found that O’Mara was “living beyond his means and was in dire need of cash.”

The prosecutor said: “The reason for this appears to have been that he funded a significant cocaine addiction of which both Gareth Arnold and John Woodliff were well aware.”

The three defendants were arrested following an inquest, and Woodliff, who was a nightclub bouncer when O’Mara was a nightclub manager, said upon arrest, “I knew it was questionable,” the jury was told.

The court heard that O’Mara had emailed Ipsa in February 2020 falsely claiming the police investigation had ended without action being taken and that he was entitled to payment of the two bills for the services rendered by Arnold.

O’Mara won for Sheffield Hallam work from formerly Liberal Democrat leader Sir Nick Clegg in 2017 but later left the party after a series of controversies.

He remained in office as an independent MP but did not run in the 2019 general election.

O’Mara of Walker Close, Sheffield, Arnold of School Lane, Dronfield, Derbyshire and Woodliff of Hesley Road, Shiregreen, Sheffield deny all charges.

The process goes on.

It was one of the biggest news stories of our time – and it’s still not over. So what did Boris Johnson know about the infamous Downing Street parties? With fresh revelations from our source number 10, in their own words, listen to the inside story…

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