A businessman who won Britain’s top accolade for disabled entrepreneurs was jailed amid angry scenes after admitting he used his award-winning business to defraud the taxpayer of £80,000.
Andrew Thomson won the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs for his work in establishing Sign-now.com, providing video conferencing for the deaf.
He received his award at a ceremony in 2008 from easyJet founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannau.
However at Stirling Sheriff Court, Sheriff William Gilchrist labelled him a “highly-culpable” fraudster.
Thomson, 51, from New Carron, Falkirk, pleaded guilty to defrauding the so-called Access to Work Scheme out of £80,000 between January and November 2011, before an anonymous tip-off alerted the Department of Work and Pensions.
The court heard Thomson, the self-employed director of Sign-now, applied for a grant via the scheme, saying he needed British Sign Language interpreters for himself and employees.
He claimed he needed six hours a day of interpreting assistance and two hours a day translation, to assist him with correspondence and making and taking phone calls.
Freelance British Sign Language interpreters, charged out at £44 an hour, were employed under the Access To Work Scheme through the Interpreting Agency Ltd., run by Thomson’s wife, Caroline Thomson, 52.
The Interpreting Agency Ltd submitted invoices in support of Thomson’s claims, which were paid by the Department of Work and Pensions into a bank account in the name of The Interpreting Agency Ltd.
However the court heard that Thomson himself was a signatory of this bank account.
His wife’s plea of not guilty to involvement was accepted.
She screamed when his 20-month jail term was announced and shook her fist at the sheriff while one of the couple’s two sons banged the seats and wall of the court and shouted profanities.
A confiscation hearing has been set for 22 June.