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Headmistress and secretary "used the school's funds for wasteful shopping"


Headmistress Michelle Hollingsworth, 55, has been accused of defrauding her elementary school of thousands of pounds by creating false receipts and using the money for wasteful purchases

A headmistress and her secretary were accused of spending thousands of pounds of school money on lavish shopping.

Michelle Hollingsworth and her secretary Deborah Jones bought designer goods, antiques, and expensive art from their schools with money, as the Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.

55-year-old Hollingsworth and 57-year-old Jones are said to have withdrawn cash from Annie Lennard Primary in Smethwick for five years using the school's checks and incorrect orders.

It is believed that they were the only two school employees who were authorized to enter and approve payments and the only two people who had access to the financial system between June 2009 and October 2015.

The staff had to buy basic materials for students with their own money, and a raise was refused to try to balance the books while the two women and other defendants cheated hundreds of thousands of pounds from the school budget. & # 39; Mr. Jackson claimed, indictment for Sandwell Council.

Prosecutor Mark Jackson said the couple traveled hundreds of miles to exclusive boutiques and shops to buy expensive designer goods all the way to Nantwich in Cheshire and Ashbourne in Derbyshire.

Mr. Jackson said Hollingsworth spent over £ 2,000 of the school's money on two oil paintings, one from a beach and the other titled Barge at Moonlight.

He said, "When asked, she seemed to be saying that she bought it for school but kept it at home."

"All the while, they used school checks to buy a wide range of goods, none of which were suitable for elementary school children."

The Smethwick School secretary, Deborah Jones, stands next to Hollingsoworth, who is accused of having used the school fees to buy designer handbags and works of art. The couple spent £ 6,000 on a shopping spree, Wolverhampton Court heard

The Smethwick School secretary, Deborah Jones, stands next to Hollingsoworth, who is accused of having used the school fees to buy designer handbags and works of art. The couple spent £ 6,000 on a shopping spree, Wolverhampton Court heard

There are a number of other defendants in the dock with the couple, including Hollingsworth's husband and sister-in-law, who are accused of being part of the scam.

Other defendants have been charged with alleging excessive or fraudulent bills for work that would never have taken place in elementary school in one of the most deprived areas of Wolverhampton.

Headmistress Hollingsworth informed her staff in spring 2015 that the school had no money because the local authority had changed it at short notice.

Mr. Jackson said, “The headmistress has used the school's money and small change as her personal bank for years.

Annie Lennard Elementary School in Smethwick, Wolverhampton, is financially stricken and is in one of the most deprived areas of the city

Annie Lennard Elementary School in Smethwick, Wolverhampton, is financially stricken and is in one of the most deprived areas of the city

"It appears that the alleged dishonesty of others was at their instigation or invitation."

Annie Lennard Primary at The Oval, Smethwick, had an extension built in 2014, and fake receipts for nonexistent or overpriced work that were allegedly being carried out were another money-spinner for the fraudsters, the claim was alleged.

Nine copper-plate lampposts and expensive York stone slabs were bought, and Hollingsworth said the school had bought 63-pound paint pots per can because of a necessary overhaul after the flood.

Andrew Feltham, who ran the double glazing company AB Windows and Burntwood Aluminum Systems, has admitted to being involved in a fraud conspiracy, the jury said.

Joseph Hollingsworth is accused of picking up some of the items his wife bought from his white van

32-year-old Daniel Feltham denies that he created the name of a company - Unique Building - for the sole purpose of submitting fraudulent invoices for work allegedly done at the school

Michelle's husband Joseph Hollingsworth (left) and Daniel Feltham (right) both denied their involvement in the conspiracy

The receipts were allegedly "cleaned up" to make purchases seem more suitable for elementary school students.

A purchased designer bag valued at £ 130 was converted to five paint dryers and the name of the shop was given the words "educational needs" when the bill was submitted to the Sandwell Council, the court heard.

The purchase of a £ 875 wing chair is said to have been used as a storyteller chair in the school library, but has never been received due to obvious health and safety concerns.

The items were said to be set aside until the checks were cashed and the couple picked up the goods instead of having them delivered to the school for free.

Hollingsworth's 57-year-old husband Joseph is accused of picking up some of the items in his white van, which were then brought to her home in Cannock.

Joseph Hollingsworth pleaded not guilty of receiving fraudulent payments for work he or his company had done at the school.

Fiona Dewsbury, Hollingsworth's sister-in-law, works as a teaching assistant at another school

Kitchen fitter Steven Roberts is accused of accepting incorrect payments for work that he never completed

Fiona Dewsbury (left), Hollingsworth's sister-in-law, denied the conspiracy to receive fraudulent payments, while kitchen fitter Steven Roberts (right) refused to receive payments for work that he never completed at school

Fiona Dewsbury, the school principal's 53-year-old sister-in-law, works as a teaching assistant at another school.

She pleaded not guilty of conspiring to receive fraudulent payments for the delivery of goods or services related to the provision of special educational needs at the Annie Lennard School.

Daniel Feltham, 32, of Norton Canes, denies having created the name of a company – Unique Building – for the purpose of submitting fraudulent invoices for alleged work done at the school.

Kitchen fitter Steven Roberts, 59, from Coppice Barn, Great Saredon, Shareshill, also denies having received fraudulent payments for work he didn't do at school.

School secretary Jones has admitted to conspiring with the headmaster, whom she allegedly followed, to defraud the Sandwell Council and Annie Lennard School.

However, it denied any suspected fraud involving other people.

Michelle Hollingsworth denies the conspiracy not to have authorized a single order and is not guilty of any other charges brought against her.

She and Jones left school in 2015.

The process continues and is expected to take up to 12 weeks.

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