February 23, 2021 4.50 pm This story is over 7 months old

Tee-thief avoids jail after defrauding England Golf

He was heavily in debt at the time

A senior official stole thousands of pounds from the body which runs amateur golf in England and created false websites to cover his tracks.

James Woodford, 45, defrauded England Golf, which is based in the quaint Lincolnshire town of Woodhall Spa, by submitting fake invoices.

A court heard Woodford, from Nottingham, successfully obtained £7,400, but checks carried out by the prestigious organisation prevented him taking a further £38,000.

Woodhall Spa is home to the National Golf Centre and English Golf, and was voted the best inland golf course in the UK, and rated 54th in the world.

Woodford, who was employed as head of training and education, was heavily in debt at the time after a business venture failed and resulted in bailiffs chasing him for money.

Stephen Taylor, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court that Woodford was authorised to purchase instruction and training materials from outside agencies and because he was trusted checks were only carried out on invoices over £5,000.

“What he did during the course of his employment was to submit a number of false invoices to the organisation’s accounts department with a view to having those false invoices purported to be issued by the companies paid either into an account in his own name or an account in the name of his mother. He had control over her bank account.

“In total he submitted seven false invoices but only on the first two occasions were they processed and payment was actually made.”

James Woodford outside Lincoln Crown Court. | Photo: Stephen Daniels

Woodford prepared and submitted the invoices which purported to be from fictitious suppliers and backed up his deception by creating websites for those firms.

Mr Taylor said: “There was a fair degree of planning that went into this. Both of those were bogus companies.

“Mr Woodford had gone so far as to set up rudimentary websites for those two fictitious companies.

“If anybody checked that there was such a company then a cursory search would bring up a website which showed they existed.”

After successfully receiving payment for the first two invoices Woodford submitted a further four, but these were blocked by a more senior officer of the organisation who was unhappy with the amounts.

“The defendant apologised for the fact that the contracts were deemed to be inappropriate. He said he would get in touch with the companies and cancel their services.”

Woodford was at the time working on a short-term contract as cover for maternity leave having previously worked in a different role for England Golf for 10 years.

He subsequently left his role early but afterwards a further false invoice was found that he had submitted to the Club Managers Association of Europe which was a genuine organisation which England Golf dealt with.

Woodford duplicated a genuine invoice and altered the details of the bank account to which payment was to be made.

The association paid the second invoice but the money went into England Golf’s account rather than Woodford’s.

The association realised they had paid twice for what they believed to be the same invoice and the subsequent investigation led England Golf to contact police resulting in Woodford’s arrest.

Woodford, 45, of Basford, Nottingham, admitted seven charges of fraud by abuse of position. He was given a 16 month jail sentence suspended for two years with 80 hours of unpaid work.

Recorder Stuart Sprawson told him: “I am quite satisfied that you were determined to receive this money.

“In an attempt to cover yourself you set up two dummy websites in the hope that anyone who made inquiries would believe that they were genuine and valid companies.”

Marie Spenwyn, in mitigation, said that Woodford had no previous convictions and was genuinely remorseful.

“The money was put into his account and eaten up by various demands he had at the time such as council tax.

“ There is no evidence of any form of lavish lifestyle. As a result of his offending, he has lost his good character and lost his relationship.

“He is currently on Universal Credit. His efforts to obtain work have been frustrated by the pandemic, but he is optimistic about the future as things start to open up.”

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