Great Britain

NHS scientist suspended after scamming John Lewis out of over £1,600 by swapping price tags

An NHS scientist has been suspended after carrying out a “sophisticated” scam to defraud John Lewis of more than £1,600.

Maureen Bennie swapped the price tags of expensive products for cheaper ones before purchasing them during a three-month spress ahead of Christmas.

She also returned a watch bought in an online sale in the box of a pricier one, to claim a refund of double of what she’d initially paid.

Ms Bennie admitted misconduct at the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service panel, and was suspended from her profession for 12 months and banned from shopping in John Lewis, both in person and online.

The hearing was told that at the time of the scams, she worked as a biomedical scientist in the Haematology Department for Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS.

The disciplinary panel heard allegations the medical worker has engaged in “ticket swapping and refund fraud” in Glasgow, making “financial” gains amounting to £1,660.

The fraudulent activity was discovered after John Lewis launched an internal investigation, and Ms Bennie was contacted by police.

The department store’s report alleged Ms Bennie had acted with an “element of subterfuge” as she either went into a changing room purposefully “hid herself from view” when swapping products’ price tags.

One incident saw Ms Bennie return 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”.

"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."

Ms 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, Ms Bennie admitted misconduct through her dishonesty claiming 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.

It 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."

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