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Building chiefs and BR surveyor found guilty of conspiracy to defraud £500,000 over two-year period Rail scam bosses jailed

THREE building bosses were jailed last week for their part in a £500,000 rail main-tenance fraud.

BR surveyor Michael Lethbridge was also jailed for three years for introducing a 'cancer' of corruption by accepting backhanders for work.

Southwark Crown Court was told that Lethbridge, of Bramshaw, Hampshire, abused his position to dishonestly influence the competitive tendering process. As a result, the work went at inflated prices to Cobart, GR Construction and JP Joinery.

In return, Lethbridge was showered with expensive gifts, including a Rover car.

He admitted three charges of conspiracy to defraud.

Les Pursey, of Hazlemere, Buckinghamshire, once Cobart contracts manager and later of GR Construction, was jailed for two years after pleading guilty to two conspiracy to defraud charges.

Cobart managing director Barry Stevens, of Hartlip, Kent, was jailed for 18 months after admitting one count of conspiracy to defraud.

Fellow director John Dickens, of Farn-ham Common, Buckinghamshire, was jailed for 15 months after admitting one charge of conspiracy to defraud.

JP Joinery co-owners Peter Menditta, of Otford, Kent, and John Pool, of East Grin-stead, Sussex, received 12-month sentences, suspended for 18 months, after pleading guilty to five forgery charges relating to bogus contracts.

A sixth defendant, GR Construction managing director Mark Rowan, of Lough-ton, Essex, was cleared of fraud.

Judge David Elfer said the offences dated back to between 1991 and 1993.

Although he accepted that builders were facing an acute recession, he said the fraud meant BR lost out on 'better offers' for the work, 'not from cowboys, but established contractors'.

He said: 'There is the dishonesty, the conspiracy, the cancer.'

The court case followed a three-year investigation by British Transport Police's fraud squad.

Det Sgt Alan Jenkinson said Lethbridge enjoyed a life of luxury on the back of the scam. He said: 'He was living a lifestyle beyond his financial means. He had a huge house in the New Forest and was being wined and dined in some of London's best restaurants.'