Wednesday, March 22

Finance officer stole from council to fund five star wedding



A London council worker has been jailed for embezzling nearly half a million pounds of public money to fund a grand wedding and honeymoon, as well as paying off her mortgage.

Ceyda Elkatme, 34, of Waltham Forest, exploited her position as a finance officer for Haringey Council to make fraudulent payments to seven accomplices for adult care services that were never delivered.

In total, she paid them more than £466,000, which they then transferred into Elkatme’s or her husband’s account, after taking a cut for themselves.

“This was a despicable crime where Elkatme abused her position as a finance officer to defraud Haringey Council out of well over £450,000 of what was effectively public money,” says Haringey Borough superintendent Amanda Dellar.

“Working with her husband and accomplices, they set out to launder hundreds of thousands of pounds between them – money which should have been paid to people providing essential care services for vulnerable adults in the borough.”

Instead, the money went to fund an extravagant wedding at the five-star Marriott hotel in London’s Grosvenor Square.

The ceremony featured huge centrepieces of white roses and lilies, a six-tiered wedding cake and an illuminated tree.

Elkatme and her husband Jihad then spent thousands on a luxury honeymoon in Dubai, before paying off their mortgage and and renovating and extending their four-bedroom home in Waltham Cross.

The fraud, which took place between June 2010 and October 2012, was uncovered when an internal audit and investigation by Haringey Council revealed the suspect payments.

Elkatme was charged with fraud by false representation and has now been given three and a half years in jail.

“Your offence was disgraceful and prolonged fraud, aggravated by the fact it was a gross abuse of your position of trust in which you had been placed,” said the judge, Mr Recorder Benedict Kelleher.

“You have spent all the money you stole, so I understand there is nothing to pay back.”

However, Dellar says that the council is hoping for a confiscation order that will allow at least some of the stolen money to be recovered.

Elkatame’s husband was jailed for 21 months, and the six other conspirators were either jailed or handed suspended sentences for money laundering.