A FORMER MP who was in debt to a drug dealer has been found guilty of six counts of fraud, which were perpetrated to fund his 'extensive cocaine habit'.
Jared O'Mara, 41, of Walker Close, Sheffield tried to fraudulently claim taxpayers' money for work that was never carried out and jobs that didn't exist.
O'Mara, who has autism, even invented a charity — Confident About Autism South Yorkshire — for which fake invoices were produced.
Four claims totalling £19,400 were submitted for the fictitious charity to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).
"O'Mara clearly viewed IPSA as a source of income that was his to spend however he wanted — and that included funding his extensive cocaine habit," said DC Kathryn Hughes.
O'Mara's former chief of staff Gareth Arnold, 30, of School Lane, Dronfield was found guilty of three counts of fraud and cleared of three further counts.
The offending came to light when Arnold contacted police in the summer of 2019 and revealed that fake invoices had been submitted.
A long-standing friend of O'Mara's, Arnold had assisted the former Labour MP with false claims during June 2019.
At the time, O'Mara was still representing Sheffield Hallam as an Independent, having had the Labour whip withdrawn just months after the June 2017 General Election.
During the trial, the court heard dishonest claims were made to IPSA, which regulates MPs' business costs and expenses.
South Yorkshire Police say the total value of the fraud was almost £52,610.
Due to IPSA's concerns, none of the claims were ever paid.
At Leeds Crown Court today, O'Mara was acquitted of two further offences of fraud.
A third man, John Woodliff, 43, of Dunninc Terrace, Sheffield was cleared of a single count of fraud.
"Our enquiries, including analysis of the defendants' digital devices, revealed he [O'Mara] was living well beyond his means and had a significant drug problem," added DC Hughes.
"He was in a dire financial situation, including being in debt to a dealer.
"It was evident he had seen this opportunity as a solution to his problems — all at the taxpayers' expense.
"O'Mara was in a position of immense responsibility and trust as a Member of Parliament and for him to behave in such a way with public money is inexcusable."
Nick Price, head of Special Crime and Counter Terrorism at the CPS, said O'Mara considered taxpayers' money as his 'to claim and use as he wished'.
"O'Mara invented a fictional autism charity and then proceeded to submit fake invoices, hoping they would slip through as legitimate claims," said Mr Price.
"Arnold assisted O'Mara in the deception, submitting a number of bogus claims, and was happy to go along with the fraud before eventually coming clean to the police.
"While serving as a member of parliament, O'Mara viewed taxpayers' money as source of income that was his to claim and use as he wished.
"His actions fell a long way short of the conduct expected of MPs, and quite frankly, taxpayers have the right to expect better."
O'Mara and Arnold will be sentenced at Leeds Crown Court tomorrow, Thursday, February 9.