A WOMAN who was behind an elaborate bus scam has been jailed for two years and is to have her assets, including a house in Baxenden, confiscated.
Suzanne Bailey, 34, of Partridge Drive, who bought title deeds so she could be called Lady Bailey, defrauded the Department of Transport of more than £150,000 by submitting "grossly inflated" claims for a rebate on fuel duty, and used forged insurance certificates.
She appeared before Preston Crown Court, where Judge Robert Brown said she had been motivated by "greed rather than need" and made a confiscation order for £195,315 to be paid within 12 months.
Bailey, the proprietor and operator of bus company, BuzyBuz Ltd, previously DSP Travel and latterly Catch Me Bus.Com, pleaded guilty to three charges of obtaining a money transfer by deception and three of using a copy of a false insurance document with intent.
No evidence was offered by the prosecution against her husband, David, who had denied the charges.
The money transfers involved false fuel rebate and mileage claims made under a Government scheme for subsidising buses on under-subscribed routes. A total of £527,000 is said to have been paid out between May 2002 and March 2004.
Mr David Pickup, prosecuting, said: "The defendant grossly inflated the fuel rebate claim, which increased over time. On one route a claim for a distance of 4.67 kilometres went in as 36.28 kilometres, which was way over."
The court heard the insurance offences came to light after accidents involving company vehicles in 2003.
In November that year police got a warrant to search her then home in Blackburn Road, Rishton, and business premises and found three forged insurance certificates.
Robert Platts defending, said that Bailey had an "anti-authority" personality, had fallen out with insurance brokers and accountants and there were times when she believed she was covered.
He said deregulation had caused bus wars with competition for the best routes but those in Northern Pennines, which no-one wanted, were subsidised.
Mr Platt said it was surprising the ease with which public money was paid out on trust without checks being made. Bailey thought she could do the paperwork herself but it had built up.
She had got into deep depression, drank heavily, had an obsessive compulsive disorder with a fixation against authority and could not recall forging the insurance documents.
She accepted that estimates were "inflated guesswork" and that a considerable amount of money was falsely obtained.
The dishonesty had started as "gross negligence" and the offences were "opportunistic".
Speaking after the case, Detective Sergeant Mark Lee, who led the CID investigation, said: "I am pleased that the judge has imposed a sentence that reflects the gravity of Suzanne Bailey's crimes.
"She defrauded the Government and then set about covering her tracks and obstructing the authorities at every turn."
Detective Chief Inspector Mike Kellet, head of the Regional Asset Recovery Team, added: "Suzanne Bailey stole from the taxpayer and put passengers on her buses at risk. We're now taking from her the benefit that she accrued from her crimes and reinforcing the message that crime doesn't pay."
Mr Kellet said the investigation into Bailey's assets would continue and officers are working with French police to try to track down a property which they believe she owns.
He added: "Inquiries are in hand with the French police and if and when we find it we will take her back to court. She should be in absolutely no doubt about that."