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Shrivenham Army chief jailed for fraud
AN ARMY officer who defrauded taxpayers of nearly £200,000 to educate his children at a top private school has been jailed for 12 months.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Henry Jolleys, 53, claimed the cash to send his three sons to the exclusive £28,000-per-year Roman Catholic Stonyhurst College, in Lancashire.
Jolleys, who was stationed at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham, kept up the elaborate charade by maintaining to his superiors that he was still married and that his wife Judith lived with him in his Army quarters when in fact they had separated.
His ruse was only rumbled when his now ex-wife rang his superior officer in the summer of 2009 and asked "Where's Henry?", sparking an investigation.
Jailing him at Swindon Crown Court, Recorder Jeremy Wright told Jolleys he had committed a 'serious, substantial fraud' over five years between 2004 and 2009.
"This is not just a case of letting things slip," the judge said.
"On each of these occasions you deliberately ... made declarations to obtain the money you obtained and make the fraud.
"You are an intelligent man and knew what you were doing."
Jolleys, who is known as Henry, sent sons Rupert, 22, Charles, 20, and his youngest, aged 15, to Stonyhurst - motto Quant Je Puis (As much as I can) - using the Army's continuing education allowance.
This allows service personnel to send children to boarding school to prevent disruption to schooling caused by postings around the UK and abroad.
The officer, of Clitheroe, Lancashire, used the 'eye-watering' sums of money - totalling £188,060.11 - to provide a privileged education for five years that he could not have otherwise afforded, his trial heard.
As the Army investigation began, Jolleys realised the 'balloon had gone up' and he set about trying cover his tracks by changing his personal status.
The court heard that Jolleys was legitimately claiming the allowance, which pays up to 90 per cent of the school fees, until he separated from his wife.
He was accused of not informing his superiors of the split - therefore creating a change in his personal status - meaning he may have no longer have received the allowance.
Jolleys was convicted of three charges of obtaining a money transfer by deception, three charges of fraud and one charge of the forgery of his ex-wife's signature on a bank form, after a trial in January.
Luke Blackburn, representing Jolleys, said his client, who has retired from the Army on a pension equivalent to a 'modest salary', had a distinguished career as an educator serving in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Sierra Leone. The latter of these three had seen him catch an infection which had led to degenerative kidney disease, he added.
Jolleys had not pre-planned the fraud, having started off claiming the money honestly, Mr Blackburn said.
"It is plain that Mr Jolleys had everybody's model of a happy life," he said.
"He was married, had stability and he and his wife had three children together.
"Slowly and painfully all that came to an end from 2002 to 2009.
"There may be a number of factors that caused him to act as he did.
"You may feel he was too proud, or too blinkered or too stubborn or too embarrassed about the change fate had wrought on his life to do his duty.
"It may have been a combination of these factors.
"Had he told the army the right information at the right time none of us would be here and his three sons would have been educated in the same way at the same school with the same benefits.
"The fault for that lies squarely at his door."
But the judge said he had seen no evidence that Jolleys would have been legitimately entitled to the money.
He accused him of "dithering" while giving evidence in his trial "in an attempt to hide your dishonesty".
He also attacked him for trying to block his wife's access to a joint bank account by forging her signature.
"It's clear you were a good carer for your children," he told the bespectacled defendant.
"(But) you treated the rights of your then wife with what I regard as contempt."
According to the Ministry of Defence the CEA is available to all ranks, not just officers.
Service personnel can claim up to £6,074 per child per term but must pay at least 10% of the school fees themselves.
The MOD announced changes to the rules in December 2010 with the aim of saving more than £20m per year.
The Army will be seeking to recoup the money it paid out.