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NHS scientist who swapped tags of products for cheaper ones suspended

NHS scientist who tricked John Lewis out of £1,600 by swapping price tags of expensive products for cheaper ones is suspended

  • Maureen Bennie returned a watch in the box of a more expensive one in the scam
  • A disciplinary panel heard Bennie swapped the labels of clothes and an ‘artwork’
  • She was caught after a probe by the high street giant and pleaded guilty to fraud
  • She was discharged from court after she paid back some of money she had taken
  • Bennie admitted misconduct at tribunal and was suspended from NHS for a year

An NHS scientist has been suspended after she carried out a ‘sophisticated’ scam to defraud John Lewis of more than £1,600 by swapping the price tags of expensive products for cheaper ones before she bought them.

Maureen Bennie also returned a watch bought in an online sale in the box of a more expensive one and was refunded double what she paid.

A disciplinary panel heard Bennie swapped the labels of clothes and an ‘artwork’ for those of less expensive items during her three-month spree ahead of Christmas.

She was caught after an investigation by the high street giant and pleaded guilty to fraud.

But she was discharged from court after she paid back some of the money she had taken.

Bennie admitted misconduct at the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service panel and was suspended her from the profession for 12 months.

Maureen Bennie also returned a watch bought in an online sale in the box of a more expensive one and was refunded double what she paid (file photo)

The remotely held hearing was told that at the time she worked as a biomedical scientist in the Haematology Department for Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS, and has enjoyed a ‘lengthy professional career’.

In early 2018 Bennie was contacted by the police after reports of fraud from a John Lewis employee.

It was alleged that in the three months leading up to Christmas the previous year she had ‘engaged in ticket swapping and refund fraud’ at the store in Buchanan Galleries in central Glasgow – making ‘financial gains’ totalling £1,660.

The panel heard that an instore investigation had found Bennie ‘swapped higher price tickets to lower price tickets’ on items such as a ‘white blouse’ and an ‘artwork’.

It heard there was also an ‘element of subterfuge’ involved as she either went into a changing room or purposefully ‘hid herself from view’ when swapping the labels on products.

The remotely held hearing was told that at the time she worked as a biomedical scientist in the Haematology Department for Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS, and has enjoyed a ‘lengthy professional career’ (file photo)

In another incident Bennie returned a gold watch she had bought in an online sale in the ‘higher priced packaging’ of a silver watch she had previously bought in store at double the price.

She claimed she had returned the gold watch – in the silver case – which was intended as a Christmas present for her daughter, because her daughter had wanted ‘the same one in gold’.

But the panel argued that her explanation made ‘no sense’.

‘It was clear that [Ms Bennie] had returned the watch in the higher priced packaging to obtain a benefit which she knew she was not entitled to,’ the panel said.

‘The Panel did not accept that the refund fraud came as a result of a muddled attempt to return items that were no longer wanted or used.’

Bennie entered guilty pleas to the criminal charges and in August 2019 was granted an ‘absolute discharge’ by Glasgow Sheriff Court after she repaid an amount less than the total value of her fraud to John Lewis.

At the disciplinary hearing, Bennie admitted misconduct through her dishonesty. In her defence it was claimed that she ‘was not herself’ at the time of the incidents.

However, the panel ruled she had ‘demonstrated limited insight’ into her behaviour and ‘had not taken full responsibility for her actions’.

The panel concluded: ‘(Her) dishonesty persisted over three months and involved a sophisticated process to obtain a financial benefit in a range of different circumstances.

‘Ms Bennie had only limited insight into the harm that she had done.

‘She minimised the seriousness of her actions and their impact on John Lewis by saying ‘any money that got spent stayed in John Lewis’.

‘This demonstrated that she still struggled to recognise that her actions were dishonest and that John Lewis had suffered loss as a consequence.’

Bennie was suspended from practicing for 12 months, and was banned from shopping in John Lewis both in person and online.

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