A woman who lied and cheated her way to a top public service job in Croydon has been jailed for 12 months and has agreed to pay back the money she was paid.
Nor does it involve Heather Cheesbrough, who remains as the council’s planning director despite publishing false qualifications on her digital CV.
For this is the case of Chanelle Poku, who pretended she had a Master’s degree in molecular biology and experience leading a charity in order to land a senior job with NHS Croydon’s Clinical Commissioning Group, and has been found guilty by a jury of fraud by false representation.
The case is another demonstration of quite how poor, to the point of non-existence, the due diligence and qualification checks can be in parts of the public service.
Poku was put in charge of delivering urgent care for patients in the borough. When challenged over her incompetent performance, she resorted to a string of false accusations of bullying, assault and racism, even taking her case to an Employment Tribunal.
The Tribunal threw out her claims.
In its judgement, which was issued in early 2019, the Tribunal said Poku was “totally lacking in credibility”.
They said, “This is therefore one of those rare occasions where we are prepared to find, not only that the allegations are not proved, but also that they are untrue.”
Recorder David Osborne, presiding over Poku’s criminal case at Croydon Crown Court, said, “Your offending left a wholly-unqualified person in charge of an important role in the local NHS infrastructure. This offence is so serious that immediate custody is justified.”
In fact, Poku’s previous job had been as an unqualified “chugger”, a high street charity donations collector, working for Action Aid.
Claiming to have a Masters degree from “Imperial University” and saying that she had been a director of Action Aid for four years, she applied for the commissioning and programme lead for urgent care job at Croydon NHS CCG. She backed up her application with false references she had either written herself or organised others to write.
In a piece of masterful understatement by the judge, he said it was “somewhat surprising” that Poku survived an interview.
At her trial, Poku tried to blame a recruitment agency for the lies on her application form.
Poku, who has been in custody since the verdict in July, has offered to repay the CCG her wages, which amounted to around £13,000 before she was rumbled and suspended.
An interesting precedent, many might think. Before they ask whether similar charges might be brought against others who appear to have conned their way to a living…
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