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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 December 2007, 18:17 GMT
Man conned Tube's refund scheme
Tube train
London Underground was criticised for not doing adequate checks
A civil servant has been jailed for 18 months for conning London Underground of 22,000 by claiming fare refunds.

Trushar Patel, 30, roped in his family to fill out thousands of forms which enabled customers to claim a fare refund if they were delayed.

The prosecutor said the scheme's execution was a "shambles of Monty Pythonesque proportions" and Tube staff failed to check if there were delays.

LU noticed the scam after it found 7,105 vouchers from the same address.

Trushar Patel, of Honeypot Lane, Stanmore, north-west London, worked in the office of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott when he was arrested.

'High level of incompetence'

Patel, his 25-year-old pregnant wife Dipti, brother Jital, 29, and mother Hansaben, 53, all pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to procure the execution of a valuable security, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Jital Patel was jailed for 12 months while Dipti Hansaben were given nine-month prison sentences suspended for two years.

The brothers also admitted to plotting to launder the proceeds of the scam.

No checks were carried out on the services claimed for let alone checks on whether they were late
Francis Sheridan, prosecutor

Sentencing the family Judge Peter Fingret said the case showed "a high level of incompetence on the part of Transport for London [TfL] and London Underground [LU]".

"I can only comment and hope that these sentences may deter other people from obtaining cash benefits out of public funds illegally," he said.

According to LU's refund policy if a passenger is delayed by more than 15 minutes they could claim a fare refund on that portion of the journey.

'Clamping down'

Prosecutor Francis Sheridan said the scheme was a "positive idea" but "the administration of this scheme was a complete shambles of Monty Pythonesque proportions".

"No checks were carried out on the services claimed for let alone checks on whether they were late or how many of the given tubes were delayed on any given day," he added.

He said the claims were processed even though the information on the forms were at times incomplete or false.

The court heard the family claimed refunds averaging eight delays a day on the Jubilee Line.

The money was used to buy travel cards which were again used for further claims.

Trushar Patel told the police his gambling habit spurred him to abuse the scheme, the court heard.

All but 4,000 of the total money amassed by the family was laundered and police found 2,000 blank customer charter vouchers when their home was raided.

A spokesperson for TfL said: "We are clamping down on fraudsters and will push for the prosecution of anyone found cheating this organisation out of what is, essentially, public money."

The judge ordered all four pay a compensation to LU and pay towards prosecution costs.

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