Doctors tricked by medical practice manager boss Ashok Patel, Leicester court told
A medical practice manager tricked doctors who employed him into signing blank cheques to fund a spree of dishonesty, a fraud trial was told yesterday.
Ashok Patel (54) allegedly told senior partners that the cheques were needed for legitimate invoices, but ended up helping himself to £60,000.
A jury at Leicester Crown Court examined 33 alleged dishonest transactions relating to business cheques from Leicester's Highfields Medical Centre, which runs two surgeries, Melbourne Road, Highfields, and Moira Street, Belgrave.
The highest single amount allegedly involved a £10,400 cheque which was paid directly into one of his personal bank accounts.
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Jonathan Dunne, prosecuting, asked senior partner Dr Jitan Patel: "Can you think of an occasion when you knowingly added to the defendant's salary by £10,400."
The doctor replied: "Never."
Dr Patel said he signed the blank cheques "out of trust" for the defendant, who was responsible for running the medical centre's finances.
Ashok Patel allegedly falsely wrote on the cheque stub that it was a payment to Glaxo-SmithKline pharmaceutical company, for medical supplies.
Mr Dunne told the jury the £10,400 went straight into the defendant's First Direct account on the day the cheque was dated, April 23, 2010.
Copies of other cheques retrieved from the bank, for other amounts, were shown to the jury. Several were for thousands of pounds to be withdrawn in cash or to pay for services such as private phone bills.
Ashok Patel, of Evington, who was earning £53,000-a-year in 2010, denies four counts of fraudulently using his employers' cheques, between March 2008 and July 2010.
He claims he has been falsely accused because doctors at the medical practice wanted an excuse to get rid of him.
Mr Dunne said the alleged dishonesty brought the medical centre, with 8,000 patients, to the "brink of bankruptcy".
Dr Patel said the medical centre successfully claimed £25,000 on its surgery insurance, due to the actions of a "dishonest employee", but the bank did not refund any money.
St John Everitt, director of a West Midlands car firm, told the court the defendant responded to an advert offering a Mercedes SL 350 car, on sale for more than £40,000, in 2010. The defendant allegedly handed over a £5,000 health centre cheque as a deposit.
Mr Everitt initially said the defendant claimed to be a doctor.
However, under cross-examination by defence counsel, Balraj Bhatia, he conceded he may have been mistaken and Ashok Patel may have just said he worked for a medical centre.
Mr Everitt said the car sale did not go ahead and the deposit was refunded.
The trial continues.