An HMRC employee has been convicted of claiming her children were disabled and submitting false tax credits to fraudulently steal over £238,000 from her employer.
The hearing, which took place at Newcastle Crown Court, found that Tracy Ashbridge had abused her job as an HMRC employee, working in the area of child tax credit claims, to fraudulently claim large sums of money.
The court found that Ashbridge attempted to obtain £434,128 and successfully obtained £238,799 over four years through falsely claiming three of her children were disabled and submitting false claims for 15 other children.
Through working in the department, Ashbridge had access to legitimate claims made by members of the public, for which she made out were her own. One of these cases, was from a family with two children who were moving to Poland, Ashbridge claimed £59,000 meant for this family.
As a result, the court decided that Ashbridge would be jailed for six counts of fraud, while her husband, Robert, would serve a suspended prison sentence for assisting in one of the offenses.
The court decided Tracy Ashbridge would be jailed for two years and four months.
A HMRC spokesperson said: “We welcome the prison sentence handed down to Tracy Ashbridge who abused her position of trust and responsibility. By stealing from taxpayers Ashbridge also stole from public services used by us all.
“HMRC is committed to the highest level of integrity, and we take the strongest possible action against the tiny minority who let us all down by falling short of those standards. We encourage anyone with information about tax fraud to report it online.”
Employee fraud on the rise
The news has been scattered with stories of workers extracting money from their employer through fraudulent means, many of these cases built around outlandish lies about their personal lives.
As an employer, you put trust in your workers to not take advantage of their role, especially if they have a significant amount of financial responsibility in the company. It can be devastating for multiple reasons if you find out a staff member has been stealing from you in any capacity.
PwC’s Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey found that last year 51% of organisations reported experiencing fraud, the highest level in 20 years of research. With more staff working from home today, remote work reportedly increases the likelihood of fraud.
These cases have certainly seen a rise since the sustained cost-of-living crisis, many workers feeling the strain of this, pushing them to commit crimes they might not have otherwise committed. Therefore, it’s important for employers to have strong preventative measures including strong hiring practices and promoting a culture of integrity, whilst putting in place checks and balances such as surprise audits and limiting access to sensitive information.