United Kingdom

Top train boss who dodged jail is now at National Express 

A former Great Western Railway boss convicted of expenses fraud is now an award-winning senior executive at National Express, it has emerged.

Mark Heffernan was spared jail earlier this week after he admitted rubber-stamping unauthorised expenses on alcohol, hotels and travel in a scam spanning more than seven years. 

The transport veteran admitted four charges of fraud after racking up bogus expenses claims totalling £10,530 over this period.

Fraudster: Mark Heffernan, right, collecting an award in 2018 with comedian Alistair McGowan

The 47-year-old from Chudleigh, Devon – who was paid £91,000 a year by GWR – was accused of 'abusing' his senior position at the train firm to extract more benefits for himself and his team – including stays in hotels with his wife. 

The fraud continued between June 2009 and September 2017.

Bristol Crown Court heard that Heffernan was aided and abetted in this deception by his personal assistant, 46-year-old Jennifer Perry. 

She admitted a single fraud charge, which totalled £3,281, by facilitating the payment of fraudulent alcohol expenses between June 2009 and December 2016.

As well as rubber-stamping illicit staff claims for alcohol, Heffernan billed GWR for hotel stays he made with his wife in Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol, the court heard.

Perry acted on instructions, and there was evidence of her trying to hide alcohol purchases in claims for 'food and beverage'.

Heffernan worked for GWR for 28 years and worked his way up to become head of drivers and then deputy operations director.

While he was sacked by GWR in June 2017 over the expenses scandal, this was not enough to derail his career and he was quickly headhunted to become operations and safety director at bus and transport group National Express.

On Monday, Judge Martin Picton sentenced Heffernan to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, for each of the four counts of fraud – to be served concurrently. 

The judge said: 'Your offending has cost you your good character and it also cost you a senior position within GWR for whom you had worked, it would seem, very effectively for many years.

'You chose, however, to break the rules in order to cover costs that were not legitimately recoverable via the expenses system, and that has cost you very dear.'

Prosecutor Benjamin Aina told Bristol Crown Court that 'fraud leads to fare increases for members of the public'.

Heffernan told investigators he recognised he had strayed into the wrong side of policy.

His barrister Stephen Mejzner said his client had worked hard for GWR and produced good results. 

He told the court the fact that National Express headhunted him for a senior job demonstrated how highly he was regarded in the industry.

Perry, meanwhile, was ordered to pay a £500 fine within five months, or else serve 14 days in jail.

Her barrister Paul Grumbar, said: 'She made nothing out of it. She doesn't even drink wine.'

National Express did not respond to requests to comment.