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Jared O’Mara: Former Labor MP found guilty of six counts of spending fraud | UK News

Former Labor MP Jared O’Mara has been found guilty of making fraudulent expense claims to fund “rampant” cocaine use.

O’Mara, 41, was an MP between 2017 and 2019 and was on trial at Leeds Crown Court for submitting false invoices to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) to help fund his addiction, said substantiate the accusation. He was found guilty on Wednesday of six counts of fraud by false representation. The jury cleared him of two other fraud charges.

His co-defendant Gareth Arnold was found guilty of three out of six fraud charges, and a third defendant, John Woodliff, was found not guilty of a fraud offence.

O’Mara and Arnold will be sentenced in the same court on Thursday. O’Mara, who declined to give evidence, appeared in court via video link from his home in Sheffield, but was told by Judge Tom Bayliss KC that he would no longer have this ‘leniency’.

The former deputy had been accused of having made false expense reports and of having employed a friend in a fictitious job. He was, according to prosecutors, in “urgent need” of money to finance his growing expenses on drugs, vodka and cigarettes.

O’Mara was elected MP for Sheffield Hallam in 2017, unexpectedly beating former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. Shortly after, he was suspended by the Labor Party after a series of homophobic and sexist posts he made when he was younger emerged. O’Mara refused to join the party and served as an independent MP until 2019.

His election was initially hailed. O’Mara, who has cerebral palsy, was different to Parliament in that he was disabled and working class. In 2018, O’Mara was diagnosed with autism, making him, he said, the UK’s first autistic MP.

But the prosecution described O’Mara as a “dishonest” and “rotten” deputy who was living beyond his means.

Prosecuting attorney Richard Wright KC said O’Mara invented “a series of scams” to extort money from Ipsa.

According to the court, the former deputy consumed up to five grams of cocaine a day as well as a one-liter bottle of vodka and 60 cigarettes daily or almost.

The court heard that O’Mara had a “dysfunctional” office, which was “a staff haemorrhage” at the time he made the claims.

The whistle was given by Arnold, who first met O’Mara in a Sheffield pub, with the pair bonding over their mutual interest in music and politics. In 2019 he became the MP’s chief of staff and in July he called the police to alert them to expense fraud.

The jury listened to the phone call he made in which he accused O’Mara of submitting false expenses.

Police appeal: co-defendant accused Jared O’Mara of submitting false expenses – audio

He told the call manager: ‘It’s a bit tricky but yesterday I spoke to the 999 service and the mental health crisis team at my employer, who I believe is suffering from a severe psychotic episode and has delusions of conspiracy against him.

“I also believe he submitted false expense reports to the government very recently.”

Wright said Arnold only called because Ipsa said it would not pay the claims. “The alarms go off – that’s when he chooses to go to the police.”

O’Mara and Arnold were found guilty of six counts of expense fraud, submitting invoices totaling £19,400 for a bogus company called Confident About Autism South Yorkshire. The company’s postcode was, according to the court, a McDonald’s on Penistone Road in Sheffield.

The former MP was also found guilty of an offense of fraud after sending an email to Ipsa in February 2020, falsely claiming that the police investigation into him was over and that he was entitled to receive two bills relating to Arnold, which totaled £4,650. The jury found Arnold not guilty on the same charge.

Not guilty verdicts were returned on charges that O’Mara and Arnold submitted fraudulent claims for media training given to the MP by Arnold, an independent media and marketing consultant.

O’Mara was also found guilty of fraudulently claiming that Woodliff was employed as a constituency support on a salary of £28,000.

Woodliff, a former bouncer and milkman who was a friend of O’Mara, was found not guilty on the same charge.

South Yorkshire Police said the total value of the fraud was over £52,000. DC Kathryn Hughes, an investigator, said: “O’Mara was in a position of immense responsibility and trust as an MP and for him to behave in this way with public money is inexcusable.”

Ian Todd, Ipsa’s chief executive, said: “We take note of today’s verdicts and would like to thank the staff at Ipsa whose diligence in spotting the irregularities and never disbursing any money in related to invoice submissions.”

During the trial, the prosecution said Woodliff’s job was to clean O’Mara’s pizza boxes and help the deputy get dressed.

Ipsa, a parliamentary body set up after the MPs’ expenses scandal, refused to pay the bills for Confident About South Yorkshire or media training.

O’Mara has been accused of seeing Ipsa as a source of income that he can claim and use as he wishes.

His attorney, Mark Kelly KC, presented no evidence and said in his summary that O’Mara was someone who found the job of MP difficult because of his disability. He was not dishonest but administratively incompetent, he said.

Nick Price, head of special crimes and counter-terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service, said O’Mara’s actions “fall far short of the conduct expected of MPs and, quite frankly, taxpayers have a right to s ‘expect better’.

theguardian Gt

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