IT expert sentenced for rail ticket forgery

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A computer whiz-kid who created forged rail tickets to avoid paying for his daily commute for more than two years was given a suspended sentence and ordered to pay the fares today.

IT consultant Jonathan Moore, 27, saved a total of £12,472 by using his computer skills to design and produce phoney tickets for rail trips from East Sussex to London.

But he was caught when a ticket inspector on a First Capital Connect train spotted his bogus ticket during a routine inspection on the Bedford to Brighton service last November.

Subtle differences in the colour and material of Moore's ticket were noticed by the eagle-eyed inspector, who helped bring his enterprising scam to an end.

A further 11 forged tickets dating back to 2006 were discovered in a plastic wallet in which Moore kept his ticket, and on a laptop seized at his home were designs for more than 70 fraudulent tickets.

Moore, of Goldstone Villas, Hove, was sentenced at Brighton Crown Court today.

He was given a nine-month suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty in August to fraud, making 74 forged travel tickets and possessing 11 forged tickets.

He was ordered to repay the £12,472 of unpaid ticket charges.

Judge Richard Hayward described it as a "skilful and sophisticated fraud committed over a long period of time" to save Moore the cost of rail travel.

The court heard that Moore's deceit involved him designing and printing off three- and six-monthly rail tickets from his laptop computer over a sustained period.

Prosecutor Tara Celikoz said: "The matter first came to light in November last year when Mr Moore was approached by a conductor on his journey on a Bedford to Brighton train.

"An inspection took place and Mr Moore briefly flashed a season ticket which the conductor noticed had many discrepancies.

"Upon arrival at Brighton station, Mr Moore was arrested and in interview he admitted making the tickets on a laptop to help him travel from Brighton and Hove to London stations."

There was no evidence Moore sold on any forged tickets, and it was said he admitted committing the offences from July 2006 to last November at the earliest opportunity.

Defence counsel Martin Cray said Moore, who had no previous convictions and lives with his partner of seven years, quit his IT job after his employers indicated they would take disciplinary action.

He said he could offer no excuse for his client's actions other than to say he was undergoing difficulties both at home and at work.

In mitigation, Mr Cray said: "He made an initial admission on the train to the officers, then at his home he showed them all the files on his computer.

"He gave a full explanation in interview, including of matters that the officers would not have found themselves. Essentially, he cooperated to the fullest possible extent."

In addition to his suspended prison sentence and the £12,472 he will have to repay, Moore was handed a 240-hour unpaid work order and told to pay £510 costs.

Judge Hayward told a tearful-looking Moore: "You are a computer expert who had a good job but you struck upon the idea of using your skills to scan and then produce rail tickets between Brighton and London.

"You did this to save yourself a considerable amount of money." He went on: "It's very sad that you should use your skills for a fraudulent purpose."

Following the case, Detective Constable Rob Cager, who led the investigation for British Transport Police (BTP), said: "The simple fact is that Moore abused his skills as an IT consultant to produce the phoney tickets, effectively allowing him to enjoy free travel on the railways to the tune of over £12,000.

"We will continue to work closely with the rail companies to ensure that those who seek to make financial gain in this way are brought to justice and I hope that today's sentencing sends out a clear message that the police and the courts will not tolerate this sort of fraudulent activity."

Karen Boswell, customer services director at First Capital Connect, said: "The audacity of this fraud beggars belief and it is a tribute to our quick-witted staff that this thief was caught out.

"Fare-dodgers like Moore are robbing the rail industry of £400 million a year, money that could otherwise be invested in better services for the vast majority of law-abiding passengers who do pay for their rail ticket."