• NHS trusts targeted by international money laundering gang
  • Gang forged letters to 22 organisations pretending to be development contractors
  • NHS Protect forensic computing unit helps secure conviction

NHS trusts lost millions of pounds after they were targeted by an organised crime gang scamming public bodies as part of a £12m international money laundering plot.

The gang forged letters, emails and faxes to 22 public organisations pretending to be legitimate development contractors. It received payments from several trusts and councils.

Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust lost £1.28m; Royal Free London FT paid £1.43m but the cash was returned; and North Essex Partnership FT was defrauded of £896,700, with £536,966 recovered.

Norfolk and Suffolk FT and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear FT ignored the fraudulent request, while Sheffield Teaching Hospitals FT was targeted but did not respond

Tees, Esk and Wear Valley FT paid £261,260 and all the money was lost.

Lincolnshire Police launched Operation Tarlac after it received a report from the Lincolnshire Partnership in 2011. The investigation revealed public bodies including the NHS trusts and local authorities had been targeted.

More than £12m was subsequently laundered, much of it overseas.

NHS Protect played a central role in the investigation. Its forensic computing unit was called in to help bring 10 men and one woman, from Lancashire, Scotland, Dubai, Essex, Middlesex, Solihull and Worcestershire, to justice.

The 10 men were sentenced to a combined 34 years in prison at Leicester Crown Court on Friday. The woman will be sentenced on 21 July.

Sergeant Mike Billam, head of the Lincolnshire Police economic crime unit, said NHS Protect and its forensic computing unit provided “exceptional support” and described the investigation as “an outstanding example of partnership working.”

Sue Frith, interim chief executive of the NHS Counter Fraud Authority and managing director of NHS Protect, said: “The collaborative work NHS Protect does with other agencies is vital in tackling fraud against the health service.

“We applaud the work done by Lincolnshire Police to bring these criminals to justice, and have been working together closely on this investigation.

“Our outstanding forensic computing unit and intelligence, fraud investigation and financial investigation specialists have played key roles.”