A CHILDREN'S nursery boss described as a ‘practiced and consummate liar’ who defrauded a Black Country council out of more than £25,000 has been jailed.

Swindling Kaljit Randhawa had claimed payments under government schemes for youngsters who had never attended or no longer attended her Little Genius Academy nursery.

Randhawa, aged 33, of Inkberrow Close, Oldbury, was found guilty of 15 charges of fraud, which she had denied, following a trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

And at Warwick Crown Court, where Judge Barry Berlin is now sitting, following an adjournment for a pre-sentence report to be prepared, she was jailed for two years and four months.

Prosecutor Simon Phillips said Randhawa was a director of the Baby Einsteins Nursery in Great Bridge Street, West Bromwich, from January 2017 until January 2018 when it then changed its name to the Little Genius Academy.

At first perfectly legitimate claims were made to Sandwell Council for funding under the government’s Early Years and Nursery Education schemes.

But over a period between January 2017 and December 2018 bogus monthly claims were made in relation to 15 youngster who supposedly attended the nursery.

Randhawa was trusted by the council to have all the appropriate details available for checking, if required.

After an online system came into force, paper claim forms did not have to be sent in, but had to be retained for inspection.

But when Ofsted and the council carried out inspections in 2018, several forms were found to be missing – and Randhawa claimed they had been taken during earlier inspections.

Further enquiries revealed there were no documents to support claims that certain children were attending the nursery – including four ‘who had never set foot in the nursery.’

When Randhawa was questioned, she claimed she had not been present on many occasions because of family illnesses – and she tried to blame two employees she claimed had supplied her with false details.

Mr Phillips said that in total Randhawa had defrauded the council out of £25,435 made up of claims ranging from £900 to £3,800 in relation to the 15 children.

Of those, some had never attended the nursery, some had attended but had then moved on to other establishments, and there were at least two instances when claims had been made in relation to children whose parents were paying fees to the nursery.

Mr Phillips added that Randhawa had a conviction for selling fireworks to children in 2005 and a caution the previous year for shoplifting.

Tom Horder, defending, said: “We accept there is an abuse of a position of responsibility.

“The prosecution case was always that the motivation was that this was a nursery low on numbers and which, certainly at the start, was struggling. It was not a business set up for fraud.”

Arguing for a suspended sentence, Mr Horder said Randhawa had relatives who were dependent upon her, including her parents, who are in poor health, and two children.

Having been born in West Bromwich, she had ambitions to go to university, but after completing college, at the instigation of her family, she was married at an early age and began working in her father-in-law’s off-licence – and she started the nursery to forge a career for herself.

Jailing Randhawa, Judge Berlin told her: “Between January 2017 and December 2018 you, as director of Baby Einsteins Nursery Ltd, which later changed its name to the Little Genius Academy, made false statements to Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council to obtain large sums of money from the government.

“The fraudulent claims were made in three ways: one, the child had not attended the nursery at all; two, the child had long left the nursery; and three, the child was attending the nursery but the parents knew nothing about the claims and paid privately for that child – double bubble, as it was referred to.

“You said you were absent for extended periods over which period your deputy manager was in charge, and you blamed both her and another employee. But the jury saw through those lies.

“You are a practiced and consummate liar. There was fraudulent activity over a sustained period. You deliberately defrauded the government and some parents by your actions. It is an aggravating feature that blame was placed on employees.”