A city councilor who has stolen over £ 260,000, intended for nursing homes, has been sentenced to four years in prison.
Grandmother Karen Kavanagh, 60, took the money over a nearly 11-year period while working as the payment team leader for the Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council in Merseyside.
She pleaded guilty to fraud at the Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday.
Tom Watson, a prosecutor, told the court that Kavanagh, who had served on the council since 1980, used an “advanced” and “cunning” system to deposit payments into her bank account.
The court heard that she would be given access to a list of checks issued but not presented, which would normally be declared void.
Instead, she made the payments to herself before returning the details in the system to the original supplier.
Mr. Watson said, “The fraudulent transactions targeted and involved care homes.”
Her insult came to light in April 2019 when a nursing home asked a question about a payment, he said.
Investigations revealed that since March 2008, Kavanagh, from Malvern Close in Kirkby, had made 122 payments to himself.
The court heard that Kavanagh, who was suspended after the discovery, retired flexibly in 2015 and worked part-time and received a pension from the council.
In a read out statement, James Duncan, executive director of the board, said she was well respected by colleagues.
He said, “They were devastated how a colleague they had previously trusted and worked with so closely could act this way.”
Conviction, Judge Brian Cummings QC said Knowsley was the third most disadvantaged area of authority in England.
He said: “It provides for and is responsible for a very large number of people who are in a vulnerable position for financial or other reasons.
The consequence of the fraud was inevitably that money was diverted from those people, money that would otherwise have been available to support the most deprived.
“All this at a time when budgets have been cut on the entire budget, especially for this municipality.”
Defending, Peter White said Kavanagh had had a financially violent relationship with her daughter’s father, who she had when she was 21, and that they had taken out loans together.
He said the man had abandoned her, left her without financial support and debts, and had since died.
Mr White said, “She was shocked to learn that the total amount exceeded £ 260,000. She is firmly convinced that she did not have a luxurious lifestyle during this time.”
He said that the mother of one, who had a good character before, was still in debt over £ 77,000 and in arrears.
He added, “What she thought would be a one-off action has unfortunately been cut to a total of 122 transactions and the astronomical amount included in the charges.”
Kavanagh, wearing a red coat, did not respond when convicted.
Judge Cummings said, “I am aware that the effect of detention, especially for a significant but undetermined period, is likely to be even more severe because of the effects of the current coronavirus situation.
“It probably caused even more fear than it would otherwise have.”