Ex-Doncaster College governor’s links to £2m property con are exposed

Joanne Outram
Joanne Outram

A FORMER chairman of governors at Doncaster College has been publicly shamed after her connections to one of the borough’s biggest fraud rackets was exposed.

Accountant Joanne Outram helped property landlord Mark Geoffrey Lawton to boost his income by providing false details so he could claim educational maintenance allowance for his teenage son.

Mark and Christina Lawton

Mark and Christina Lawton

Outram, 42, of Farringdon Drive, Rossington, was chair of the governors at Doncaster College for four years until she resigned at an extraordinary meeting in June 2007 after a damning Ofsted report said The Hub was failing students.

She pleaded guilty to fraudulently completing EMA forms and was sentenced to six months jail, suspended for 24 months and ordered to carry out 100 hours of community work

Outram appeared in court with Lawton, who acquired a £2 million property portfolio through fraud, including selling illegal cigarettes and failing to pay tax on his business profits. He was jailed for two years.

Lawton, 45, of Windsor Road, Town Moor, was caught when HM Revenue & Customs seized 10,000 illegal cigarettes and £50,000 in cash. About £10,000 was stashed at the house and another £40,000 was found in his van.

Although Lawton also owned an extensive property portfolio, which included luxury properties in Tenerife and across Doncaster, he had claimed that his family’s small tanning salon business, Tan’n’Go in Imperial Crescent, Town Moor, only made him an income of around £10,000 per year.

HMRC estimate that Lawton had defrauded the public out of £65,000 in unpaid taxes alone.

He owned 17 properties which were rented out, but for which he did not declare any profits. He also lied about his financial circumstances to obtain a loan by deception, as well as providing false income details in order to claim the EMA for his son.

Lawton’s wife, Christina, 39, pleaded guilty to fraudulently claiming EMA for their children and was given a 12 month community order and 100 hours of unpaid work.

Sentencing Mark Lawton at Sheffield Crown Court, Judge Peter Kelson, QC, said: “You and your wife were living well beyond your declared means. What you declared to the Revenue was far short of the correct figure - therefore you were enjoying a better lifestyle than that of honest people.”

Passing sentence on Outram, he said: “You are a qualified accountant, a professional person and you did this for personal gain by keeping the custom of your client.

“The involvement by professional people by making claims on the state erodes the public confidence.”

After the hearing Peter Hollier, deputy regional director of criminal investigation for HMRC said: “Lawton made a significant effort to hide his business dealings from the authorities.

“He enjoyed the benefits of our public services and lived a lifestyle that many families work hard to achieve, but his activity was stealing vital public revenue. It is only fair to those hard working families that he has been brought to justice.”

Lawton pleaded guilty to charges of cheating the public revenue, evasion of excise duty and possession of criminal property. An order was made to seize £50,420 cash for possession of criminal property. He must also pay £10,000 costs