A Nigerian woman, identified as 32-year-old Adaku Okafor of Downend Road, Bristol, who provided false identity documents to secure work as an NHS student nurse in the Bristol area has been jailed for 16 months.
In addition to the prison sentence, the judge recommended she be deported, stating that “the defendant devised a sophisticated method of remaining in UK”, including the use of a false passport.
Okafor was caught after a joint investigation by NHS Protect – formerly the NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service – and the Home Office Immigration Service.
She was found guilty of four offences under the Fraud Act 2006 and Identity Documents Act 2010 at Bristol Crown Court on 3 August, having used forged and stolen identity documents, false employment references and fake European Union documentation.
The court heard that she secured NHS employment for eight years – including at University Hospital Bristol NHS Foundation Trust Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust – and was also awarded an NHS student bursary to fund her training.
During the investigation, passports and other identity documents were tested and found to be false, forged and improperly obtained.
Ian Gilpin, an anti-fraud specialist at NHS Protect, added: “As a result of adopting these false identities, she was able to deceive the NHS and several other government departments.
“By taking up a university place, she denied genuine applicants the chance to start their studies and embark upon careers in nursing,” he said.
Sue Frith, managing director of NHS Protect, added: “These were serious offences committed over a long period of time, with the intent of diverting public money away from the NHS and other government agencies.
“The sentence reflects this and should send out a warning to those intending to defraud the NHS,” she said.
NHS Protect noted that the original allegation against Ms Okafor had stated that a number of individuals in the Bristol area were involved in using false identity to gain NHS employment.
The agency said “measures” were in place for a further individual, who had fled the UK, to be arrested upon re-entry, while another had been deported.