Jail for sponsorship chief in arts swindle

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The Independent Online
THE head of a prestigious sponsorship body was jailed for 18 months yesterday after admitting he swindled pounds 175,000 in government grants for the arts.

Nicholas Wood, head of the Business Sponsorship Incentive Scheme, invented a string of bogus projects throughout the South-east to secure the money in his 'thoroughly deceitful' fraud.

Southwark Crown Court in south London was told that the manager falsely claimed his imaginary organisations had already won sponsorship from companies and he made use of the Department of National Heritage project to match business support 'pound for pound'.

The scheme is run by the Association of Business Sponsorship of the Arts for the Government. Over more than three years, Wood, who earned pounds 26,000 a year, won seven pounds 25,000 awards for fictitious projects for the young and disabled.

Wood, 38, who is married with two young children, admitted six charges of obtaining by deception between August 1990 and January 1993, and asked for a similar offence, committed in 1989, to be considered.

The court was told that Wood's bogus projects were based in Brighton, Surrey, Berkshire, the Medway towns and Brentford, west London.

Judge Gerald Butler said he accepted that taking into account the guilty pleas and 44 references that Wood showed 'genuine remorse'. But he added: 'That criminal conduct, however, is of a most serious kind. It is so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified.'

The judge accepted that the stolen money had not been used for high living. But he said: 'Over a number of years you operated an elaborate and carefully calculated scheme of a thoroughly deceitful kind. You abused the trust placed in you.'