Hackney Homes bribery trial: Lakehouse manager Lee Wylie took £800,000 to guarantee work and fund his lavish lifestyle
PUBLISHED: 17:41 20 January 2020 | UPDATED: 18:02 20 January 2020
A "greedy" manager at contractor Lakehouse who funded his extravagant lifestyle by taking £800,000 in bribes from sub-contractors in return for securing them work with Hackney Homes, has been jailed for six years.
Lee Wylie, 48, spent the cash he obtained between 2012 and 2014 through the abuse of his position as an £88,000 a year divisional director for the firm on expensive foreign holidays, watches, cars and restaurants, and even a specially-made grandfather clock.
Working for the firm that was responsible for installing fire alarms at Grenfell Tower, Wylie was in charge of fire safety contracts on behalf of Hackney Council's former arms-length management organisation Hackney Homes, and secured work for sub-contractors Constantinos Polycarpou, 42, Stephen Ellis, 51, Richard Lee, 45, and Mark Middleton, 51.
Leslie Ratty, 68, meanwhile laundered hundreds of thousands of pounds through four companies.
Fraud allegations came to light in 2014, when a whistleblower accused Spicer's Ltd, owned by Ellis and Lee, and MJM Ltd, owned by Middleton, of paying bribes to K and R Consultants Ltd in return for work with Lakehouse.
A complex police investigation uncovered that K and R Consultants was a sham company to receive the bribes and had been set up by the partners of Wylie and Wylie's colleague at Lakehouse, who was also involved in the scam.
During a police interview Middleton claimed Wylie had said if he wanted work with Lakehouse to install smoke alarm systems, he would have to pay £50 a job - a figure that soon increased to £100.
"Middleton said he wished he could have walked away but felt he had no option, but agreed he knew what he was doing was wrong," said judge Gledhill.
"He said Wylie asked him to create a false invoice for £72,000 of work never done. He explained he had done this because Wylie was a bully, and he had a family and mortgage and needed the money.
"The payments weren't for work done and the bank accounts were used to receive the corrupt payments. The money was used by them and their partners for high living," he added.
In total Spicer's paid £559,000 in bribes, MJM £225,000, and Costantinos Polycarpou paid £10,000.
Ellis and Lee pleaded guilty to bribery and theft in July, and on the eve of a trial in September Middleton admitted the same.
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Four days after a jury was sworn in, Wylie announced he would also plead guilty.
Constantinos and his father Yiannakis Polycarpou pleaded not guilty to bribery, and following a month-long trial in October Yiannakis was acquitted, and Costas was found guilty. Ratty pleaded guilty to money laundering last week.
Sentencing the six men, judge Gledhill told Wylie he had "corrupted others into becoming involved".
"There is no doubt you are the prime mover of this sophisticated and long-running fraud," he said. "Your right-hand man played an important part in what you were doing and he wouldn't have done so were it not for you. "The others were each respectable competent contractors working for Lakehouse, and common sense dictates they wouldn't have paid anyone for Lakehouse work unless they had no other option not to pay.
"Why did you, a 47-year-old man devise a scheme and carry it out so successfully? Quite simply it's down to greed.
"You were so familiar with the way the sub contracting scheme worked you thought you could do bribes and cover your tracks and you thought you would never be caught."
Lee, of Witham, Ellis, of Malden, and Middleton, of Ruislip, were each sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment for both bribery and theft to run concurrently, suspended for two years.
Lee and Ellis were ordered to pay £10,000 each in costs and Middleton to pay £5,000.
Polycarpou, of Barnet, was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment, suspended for two years and ordered to pay £40,000 in costs.
Ratty, of Braintree, was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment, suspended for two years and ordered to pay £500 in costs.
Confiscation proceedings are ongoing against Wylie.
HH Judge Gledhill commended Det Sgt Andrew Bailey and Det Const Amanda Keeley for their hard work and the "dogged determination" they had put into the case.
"It's been apparent to me the extent of the work they did over a long period of time in difficult circumstances, hindered by lack of resources no doubt, and to my mind they have done an extremely good professional piece of work," he said.