A NORTH-East NHS trust targeted by a criminal gang laundering money via their business accounts will receive more than £216,000 in compensation.

The Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV), which provides mental health, learning disability and eating disorder services across the region was defrauded of thousands of pounds by the conmen posing as legitimate businessmen.

More than 90,000 files and documents were analysed by police officers and the NHS Counter Fraud Authority, which together launched a criminal investigation into the fraud.

The TEWV Trust were among seven NHS Trusts across the country engaged by the fraudsters. The Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust was one of the organisations targeted by the gang, however they ignored the fraudulent request.

Operation Tarlac, led by Lincolnshire Police Economic Crime Unit, revealed the group defrauded £12m from various public bodies, councils and housing associations by forging letters, emails and faxes to masquerade as a legitimate firm and divert payments to themselves.

The investigation has seen more than 50 years in prison sentences handed to the gang members, who were laundering funds through business accounts in the UK, Dubai, Turkey and Poland.

A Proceeds of Crime case last week rewarded £1.7m back to the defrauded NHS Trusts, with the TEWV Trust set to receive £216,584.76.

More than 50 computers and 200 mobile phones were seized by police during Operation Tarlac, which became an international operation after the 14th member of the crime group fled to the US whilst on bail. Bayo Awonorin was later extradited and sentenced in January to nine years and six months’ imprisonment.

Another conspirator, oil and gas executive Walter Wagbatsoma was sentenced to three-and-a-half-years in jail in January 2018, after being detained in Germany.

One of the conspirators, Oluwatoyin Allison, remains wanted. He was convicted in his absence in April 2017 and jailed for seven years.

Patrick McGahon, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust director of finance said: “In 2011, funds were illegally obtained from the Trust by a criminal group targeting public bodies.

"Since this time we have further strengthened our control procedures to minimise future risk and continue to work closely with the NHS Counter Fraud Authority to tackle fraud, bribery, corruption and other economic crime affecting the NHS.”