Conman worked as ambulance finance boss while under fraud investigation

Stephen Day

Stephen Day used the money from his frauds to live a luxury lifestyle, including buying this home in Scotland. - Credit: PA/GMP

A former finance director at the region's ambulance trust was under investigation by the NHS when he was hired to the £250,000-a-year role.

Stephen Day, 51, was jailed on Thursday for 11 years and five months, for "industrial scale dishonesty" which the judge said had caused "misery, hardship and anxiety to many".

He swindled close to £1.4m from a string of companies and NHS trusts to fund an extravagant lifestyle which included the purchase of a 45-acre Scottish country estate with its own salmon fishing stream.

Between 2011 and early 2013, Day was working for three NHS trusts in the northwest at the same time, and in May of 2013 the NHS locally launched an investigation.

Stephen Day

Stephen Day, an NHS accountant who committed "industrial scale dishonesty" to fund an extravagant lifestyle - Credit: PA

But later the same month the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) employed Day as its finance director.

As a key board member, he was in charge of signing off the trust’s annual report and overseeing its £235m budget. Day was paid a total of £276,000 between May 2013 and May 2014 by EEAST.

In September 2013, the NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) took over the investigation, but Day continued to be employed by the ambulance service as its finance director until May 2014.

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EEAST has refused to answer our questions about why they hired him, what checks if any were carried out before Day was hired, whether the trust was defrauded, or why Day left after a year.

A spokesman for EEAST said only the NHSCFA could decide “what information is appropriate to give out”. The NHSCFA said it could not answer this newspaper’s questions until Tuesday.

Sentencing him on Thursday at Leeds Crown Court, Judge Simon Batiste told Day: "There was no boundary of dishonesty that you were not prepared to cross," as he tried to evade detection at various points by falsely claiming he had cancer. 

On top of his NHS posts, Day, of Quiech Mill, Blairgowrie, used his status to be appointed as director, financial director or company secretary of four organisations including a care home provider for vulnerable people and the management company of the block of flats where he lived in Manchester city centre.

Leeds Crown Court also heard that once in place he sought to empty their bank accounts into his own and hide the trail with false ledger accounts and documents.

Stephen Day's home

One of several properties purchased by Stephen Day - Credit: PA

Another victim was Gloucester-based Avida Care, where he became the financial director and took on the responsibility for payroll and support services. When he failed to attend meetings and provide financial information, he lied that his mother had died and he had been diagnosed with cancer.

Day also admitted fraud by misrepresentation as he failed to disclose to three NHS trusts that he was working full-time for them all at the same time on a combined daily £2,000 salary, on top of his other interests.

The conman resorted to more lies as he struggled to meet all his commitments by again claiming he had cancer, had been involved in car crashes and was mourning the loss of his father, who had actually died nine years earlier.

Picture: James Bass

Emergency services were called to the Kings Head on Norwich Street in Dereham after 5.30pm on Tuesday, April 13 to reports of a fight between three women in their 20s. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press

Judge Batiste said his most cynical fraud was committed on a female friend who he had met again many years later through a professional networking site.

Day said he had been widowed two years earlier and went on to her groom her as he concocted reasons to borrow more than £4,500 from her as his financial dealings caught up with him.

The judge said: "There was no boundary of dishonesty that you were not prepared to cross. The consequences have been enormous.

"In short you have caused misery, hardship and anxiety to many. This was industrial scale dishonesty purely to fulfil your own greed."

Day, who pleaded guilty to 12 counts of fraud and theft totalling nearly £1.4 million between 2012 and 2015, was also disqualified from being a director for nine years.

Richard Rippin, from the NHSCFA, said: "Stephen Day carried out a calculated fraud against the NHS. Any money lost to fraud affects the amount of resources the NHS has available for front line care."