Former MP allegedly ‘faked £30k expenses to fund his drug habit’

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Jared O’Mara, 41, is alleged to have submitted “dishonest” expense invoices to buy cocaine, which he was “abusing in prodigious quantities”. Jurors heard that he made four claims to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority between June and August 2019 from an allegedly “fictitious” organisation called Confident About Autism SY, and submitted two further invoices from his “chief of staff” Gareth Arnold for alleged fake media and PR work.

O’Mara is also accused of ­submitting a false contract of employment for his friend John Woodliff, allegedly “pretending” that Woodliff worked for him as a constituency ­support officer.

O’Mara, who disposed former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg from his Sheffield Hallam seat in 2017, appeared by videolink at Leeds Crown Court.

He denies eight counts of fraud by false representation, with Arnold jointly charged with six of the offences, and Woodliff jointly charged with one.

James Bourne-Arton, prosecuting, said Ipsa – the organisation set up to regulate MPs’ staffing and business costs – did not pay out any of the claims due to a lack of evidence the work had been carried out.

He said: “Jared O’Mara viewed Ipsa, and the taxpayers’ money that they administered, as a source of income that was his to claim and use as he wished, not least in the enjoyment of his extensive cocaine habit.

“Arnold and Woodliff were old friends of Jared O’Mara and sadly were persuaded to go along with his dishonest claims.”

The court heard that Arnold, 30, alerted South Yorkshire Police in 2019 after “reaching a point at which he was no longer willing to participate in the fraud”.

In Arnold’s call to police, played to jurors, he said: “I spoke to the 999 service and the mental health crisis team about my employer, who I believe is suffering a severe psychotic episode and has delusions of a conspiracy against him.

“I also believe he has been submitting fake expense claims to the Government very recently.”

The allegedly fraudulent invoices included £19,400 for support from Confident About Autism SY, and £4,650 for Arnold.

Mr Bourne-Arton said Confident About Autism SY was “an invention of Jared O’Mara that he hoped to slip through as a legitimate claim”.

The court heard financial investigations said O’Mara was “living to or beyond his means and in dire need of cash” to buy drugs.

The three defendants were arrested after an investigation.

O’Mara quit Labour in 2018 but remained in office as an independent MP before standing down in 2019.

The trial continues.

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