Former MP Jared O’Mara invented spending to fund his cocaine addiction, a court has said

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<p><figcaption class=Photo: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

A former MP accused of making false claims to parliament for reimbursement was “heavily addicted to cocaine” and was living beyond his means, a court heard.

Jared O’Mara is charged with eight counts of “brazen” fraud while he was Labor MP for Sheffield Hallam. It is also alleged that he tried to collect around £30,000 of taxpayers’ money by using fake invoices for organizations that did not exist.

On the first day of his trial at Leeds Crown Court, the jury heard that O’Mara had submitted false invoices to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), a body set up to investigate MPs’ claims after the spending scandal.

Prosecutor James Bourne-Arton said part of the scam involved the creation of the fictitious Confident About Autism South Yorkshire charity to claim payments.

O’Mara, who was not present at the court and attended via video link from his home in Sheffield, denies all accusations.

Bourne-Arton said O’Mara, who lost his seat in the 2019 general election after two years, was living “beyond his means and in dire need of cash” due to “funding a significant cocaine addiction”.

“It was an invention by Jared O’Mara who was hoping to slip as a legitimate claim, no doubt trying to hide behind the fact that it was related to his disability if ever challenged,” he told the jury.

The court heard that he planned to share the proceeds of the fraud with co-defendants, “old friends” Gareth Arnold and John Woodliff – whom he hired in his office in 2019.

Arnold, from Dronfield, Derbyshire, was O’Mara’s chief of staff during the 2019 general election and helped with expenses, while Woodliff, from Sheffield, was employed on a salary of £28,800 as a constituency support worker. did not.

Arnold is charged with six expense fraud charges and Woodliff is charged with one fraud charge based on failing to act as a support worker. Both deny the charges against them.

The court heard that the Confident About Autism invoices were “in different formats, had inconsistent references, and in one case were dated after they were submitted for payment,” said Bourne-Arton.

Shortly after submission, the invoices were rejected by IPSA, which became concerned about the validity of the claims and requested additional evidence.

Around the same time, Arnold went to South Yorkshire Police to report a scam he “didn’t want to be part of anymore”, Bourne-Arton said.

The jury played Arnold’s phone call to police on July 7, 2019. He said: “It’s a bit difficult, but yesterday I spoke to 999 support and the mental health crisis team about my employer, who I believe is suffering from a severe psychotic episode and is delusional conspiracy against him.

“I also believe that he has been making false claims to the government for reimbursement very recently.”

During police interrogations, Arnold “described an unmistakably sad state of affairs in which O’Mara was apparently unable to cope with the office he held, was in poor mental health and heavily addicted to cocaine, which he abused in colossal amounts”, Bourne – Arton told the court.

The three men were then arrested, and the court heard Woodliff remark after his arrest, “I knew it was suspicious.”

The process continues.

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