A former IT officer for the Dundee City Council has admitted to stealing over £1 million from the local authority in a seven-year long fraud.
Mark Conway, 52, told the High Court in Edinburgh on Wednesday that he diverted the money to his personal accounts in order to pay off debts racked up through online gambling. The court heard that he defrauded £1,065,085 between August 2009 and May of last year. To date, only £7337 has been recovered.
Conway was able to steal the money by making false entries into the authority’s financial computer systems, whilst secretly transferring funds to his personal banking and building society accounts. He made further entries that were paid by council officials who believed they were making legitimate payments.
Regarded as one of the local authority’s primary IT specialists, Conway had been granted “unrestricted access” to their financial computer systems.
The prosecutor told the Court:
“During 2009 the accused had become indebted due to his use of online gambling websites. In an effort to obtain further funds to pay off a credit card bill, on or about 6 August the accused created an entry to reflect a legitimate sum invoiced by Scottish Fuels which was due to be paid by the council.”
The entry in question appeared no different from any other relating to Scottish Fuels, who supplied fuel to the council and are a legitimate recipient of funds from the local authority. However, the entry contained the details of Conway’s Nationwide building society account rather than that of Scottish Fuels.
Conway’s actions were discovered after a council employee became suspicious over a £7337 transaction supposedly made to a building firm that had been paid into a Nationwide building society account. On May 25 last year, the council’s head of customer service and IT, Gregory Colan, was made aware of a further transaction made to Scottish Fuels that had been paid into Conway’s Santander bank account. Senior officials subsequently decided to suspend Conway on full pay, and auditors were called in to identify how funds had been diverted to his accounts.
The advocate depute told the Court that a number of weaknesses in the council’s accounting practices were also identified, which had allowed the fraud to remain undetected for so long.
Judge Graham Buchanan QC told Conway at the hearing:
“This is a very serious matter indeed. Your counsel, and no doubt you yourself, recognise realistically there is really only one possible disposal.”
A Dundee City Council spokesperson said: “The council is aware of the plea that has been tendered in this case. This individual is no longer employed by Dundee City Council.
We will be issuing a statement when legal proceedings have concluded.”