Five men have been jailed for swindling thousands of pounds in public money at a Gwynedd bus firm.
The owner of Express Motors, Eric Wyn Jones, and his son, Ian Wyn, were both jailed for seven and a half years. They were among four members of the same family convicted of fraud.
Kevin Wyn Jones (55) from Bontnewydd was jailed for seven years and Keith Jones (51) from Llanddaniel was sentenced to six years.
One of the company’s drivers, Rheinallt Williams (44) from Deiniolen, was jailed for a year after he admitted conspiring to commit fraud by false representation. He pleaded guilty before the start of a four-week trial.
The Jones family were accused of paying over £500,000 to themselves by using the concessionary passes to claim back money each month from the council – and in turn, claim back from a Welsh Government travel scheme.
The 31 passes were used fraudulently over 88,000 times – one pass was said to have been used for 23,000 fake bus trips, while another was still being used after its owner died. Eric Wyn Jones’ own bus pass was also used.
A police investigation was launched after a complaint from Gwynedd County Council, who lost over £131,000 of public money as a result of the fraud.
Express Motors, based in Penygroes, lost its licence to run public bus services at the end of last year, after the Traffic Commissioner for Wales ruled the company had falsified some of its maintenance records.
The Crown Prosecution Service said the large amounts of cash claimed was lining the pockets of the defendants. It found evidence that the company could ”not account” for the money it was making or show it had been taxed appropriately.
Sentencing the men at Mold Crown Court, Mr Recorder Timothy Petts said the men had planned to swindle Gwynedd Council for the benefit of the Jones family.
He described it as ”fraud by breathtaking arrogance” and that each fraudulent swipe of the bus passes meant ”money in the bank” for Express Motors. The judge noted that Eric Wyn Jones (77), from Bontnewydd, and his three sons continued to maintain their innocence.
Reacting to the sentences, Chief Inspector Gerwyn Thomas said: ”This was done for their own greed during a time of economic austerity and their actions have caused a significant economic loss to the tax payer.”
”I welcome this sentence and hope it sends a clear message that North Wales Police and the Crown Prosecution Service will fully investigate crime of this nature and ensure offenders are bought to justice.”
During Wednesday’s hearing, Ian Wyn Jones (53) from Penygroes pleaded guilty to a further charge of possessing £840 in counterfeit cash.
Gurminder Sanghera, a specialist CPS prosecutor, said: ”These men ran or were employed by a major bus company in North Wales. They each knew what the concessionary fare scheme was and its appropriate use.”
”They denied their involvement in this fraud but the CPS showed evidence, including accounts from the real owners of the passes who had lost them, and of the high number of swipes over two years.”