Former business manager jailed for setting up false travel profile to book 234 hotel stays

Courts
Courts

A Leamington bank’s disgraced former business manager set up a system which enabled him to charge the bank for hotel stays even after he had served a prison sentence for fraud.

Warwick Crown Court heard that Harvinder Sandhar made 234 bookings worth more than £30,000 through the travel company used by the Royal Bank of Scotland over a five-year period.

Sandhar, 41, now of Cruikshank Close, Milton Keynes, was jailed for two years and four months after being given credit for his plea of guilty to a charge of fraud.

Prosecutor Amy Jackson said Sandhar had been a business manager at the Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Leamington until 2007 when he resigned during an investigation.

That had eventually led to him being jailed for two years and nine months in 2010 after he had been convicted of defrauding the bank out of £180,000.

By then he had already set up the system he used to commit the current offences, said Miss Jackson, and they continued following his release from prison on licence.

She explained that the RBoS use Carlson Wagonlit Travel for its employees to make travel and hotel bookings, with each authorised member of staff having a ‘travel profile’.

But in 2009, following his resignation but before he was jailed, Sandhar took advantage of his knowledge of the system to create a false travel profile in his own name.

Then over a five-year period, with a gap while he was serving his prison sentence, he made a total of 234 hotel bookings worth a total of £30,800 through CWT.

They included stays at the Novotel and other hotels in Birmingham, as well as at others all over the country including London, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Leicester, Leeds and Durham.

At one point some suspicion was aroused at CWT, and they contacted Sandhar, but he was able to convince them he was still working as an RBoS business manager – and it was only when a check was later made with the bank that it was found he was not.

When Sandhar was then arrested, he claimed he thought he was still entitled to use the system as an ex-employee; but when challenged, he accepted that was nonsense and apologised.

Natasha Bournes, defending, said that Sandhar had been married, and there was family pressure for he and his wife to stay together despite a worsening in their relationship.

He began staying in hotels to get away from his wife and the situation at home, using the RBoS account to extend stays at hotels he had been legitimately staying in as part of his job at the time with another company.

The marriage came to an end after he was jailed, and following his release in 2011 he began a new relationship.

But asked by Judge Sylvia de Bertodano whether the hotel visits then stopped, Miss Jackson pointed out that they continued throughout the rest of that year and 2012.

The judge observed there was ‘no fall-off’ in 2013 or 2014 either, to which Miss Bournes responded: “He just finds he needs his space.”

And, asking for Sandhar to be given a suspended sentence, she said his partner’s younger child is extremely ill and due to go into hospital for cancer treatment next month, during which he will have to look after her older son at home.But jailing Sandhar, Judge de Bertodano told him: “You were able for a period of five years to continue staying in hotels at the Royal Bank of Scotland’s expense, and you have cost them over £30,000.

“It was not the first time you had defrauded those employers, because in 2010 you received a custodial sentence of 33 months for defrauding them out of £180,000.

“You were booking hotels both before you were in prison and for several years after your release. It only stopped when the travel company began to realise there was something wrong.

“You put this down to relationship problems because you were in a marriage break-down.

“That might gain you some sympathy, but you stayed in hotels before your marriage broke down, and while you were then living with your parents; and after you begin living with your new partner there’s no break in your offending.”