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A GP who embezzled over £ 1.1 million in “six weeks of madness” to pay for his online gambling habit has been jailed.
Dr Rumi Chhapia, 45, stole funds from a company that oversaw a group of GP practices in Portsmouth.
He was a director of the company he defrauded, but had been “seduced by his addiction to gambling,” the Portsmouth Crown Court heard.
Chhapia pleaded guilty to abuse of office fraud and was jailed for three years and four months.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard that senior GP Dr Rumi Chhapia embezzled a staggering £1.13million from PPCA, a healthcare group he founded, immediately after being put in charge of the accounts.
The court heard that Chhapia founded Portsmouth Primary Care Alliance Limited (PPCA), a collection of GP offices in and around the city, whose role included bidding for after-hours services.wikipedia
Southsea’s father-of-one stole funds from the healthcare group in 65 transfers over a 41-day period in 2020 to pay off debts for slot machines and roulette, the court was told.
The court heard that he gambled £ 2.5 million, of which he recovered £ 1.2 million of his losses. He then went on to reimburse £ 238,000 to the company.
In sentencing, Judge Keith Cutler said the doctor had “abused the trust” placed in him.
“His duty as a GP should have been to provide the best care for his patients, that should have been the pinnacle of his care, but he was dishonest,” he told Chhapia.
“You were seduced by your addiction to gambling.”
A PPCA statement read to the court said that the staff had needed advice and that “the people of Portsmouth had lost some of the money from the NHS that could have been used to benefit their care.”
As a mitigation, Stan Reiz QC said that his client was a “hardworking, honest and talented physician” who at the time had an undiagnosed gambling disorder.
“He has embarrassed the company he built from scratch and himself for six weeks of madness,” he added.
The corrupt family doctor defrauded the GP surgery group immediately after being put in charge of their accounts, leaving his finances in disarray and other directors in need of therapy.
The Portsmouth Crown Court heard that a total of £ 2.5 million was gambled, of which he recovered £ 1.2 million of his losses.
Chhapia was confronted, but claimed he was the victim of a cybercrime and continued to embezzle money.
The GP told Mr. Stubbings: “It is a fraud, all my accounts have been hacked, my Amazon and my PayPal.”
He promised that no further funds would be transferred from the PPCA, but continued to do so and from 20 August to 30 September last year he embezzled £ 1,133,704.50.
The police investigated and Chhapia admitted: ‘I screwed up.’
His fraud was described as “relatively unsophisticated” when he transferred it to accounts in his own name.
Of the £ 1.13 million he embezzled, he returned £ 238,000 and the gambling companies will pay £ 904,000.
All the money obtained by PPCA goes to the development of its 16 general practitioner surgeries.
Judge Keith Cutler, who sentenced Chhapia for abuse of position fraud, said: ‘You abused the trust placed in you and took £ 1.1 million from the PPCA, money that should have been for GP surgeries to develop your services.
“This is a very serious abrogation of your responsibilities as a doctor.
His duty as a GP should have been to provide the best care for his patients, which should have been the pinnacle of his care, but he was dishonest.
“You were seduced by your addiction to gambling.”
He added: ‘You are a man of good character, you have excellent references, you are a GP who has such skills and abilities that people have written to me, and you have proven your expertise time and time again and you are a popular and respected doctor.
“The last thing a judge wants to do is send a man like you, a doctor with such skills and abilities, to prison.”
Judge Keith Cutler, sentencing Chhapia at Portsmouth Crown Court for fraud by abuse of position
‘This is an unusual and tragic case.
References from his esteemed colleagues describe an honest and hardworking man who has acted completely out of place.
He “he suffered from financial difficulties that were exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.
This was exacerbated by his gambling disorder, which was not diagnosed at the time, but is now.
He is deeply sorry for the pain he has caused and takes full responsibility for his wrongdoing.
“ He has embarrassed the company he built from scratch and himself for six weeks of madness.
“ He had the delusional impression that he would win, fueled by his addiction, he felt that he was a victory away.
“The situation he found himself in was desperate, the only way he had to return the money was to bet more.”
Mr. Reiz added that Chhapia had approached the gambling companies himself and arranged to refund the money, saying it was the proceeds of crime.
The 45-year-old, who was earning nearly £ 200,000 a year, lied to his suspected colleagues that he had been ‘hacked’ due to a cybercrime, as he made a total of 65 transfers to his own bank account .
He said that Chhapia, who had caught Covid twice, had continued to work at A&E after his arrest, saying: ‘During the second wave of the pandemic, he was working in a hospital on the Isle of Wight and his conduct was described by some. from his colleagues as excellent.
Judge Keith Cutler added: ‘You abused the trust placed in you and took £ 1.13 million from the PPCA, money which, in my opinion, should have been for GP surgeries to develop your services.
“This is a very serious abrogation of his responsibilities as a doctor … his duty should have been to provide the best care for his patients and that should have been the pinnacle, but he was dishonest.
“In any case, your addiction lured you into your addiction to gambling and it wasn’t just one time.”
Judge Cutler said that every time Chhapia transferred money “he must have thought” he shouldn’t be doing this. ”
He criticized the doctor for “misleading” his colleagues with lies and said the damage caused was “significant” financially.
Chhapia, of Portsmouth, resigned from office in October last year and admitted abuse of office fraud.
Rumi Chhapia Quick and Facts
- Rumi Chhapia, 45, was sentenced for three years and four months
- He stole funds from the healthcare group he founded in 65 transfers over 41 days
- Portsmouth Crown Court heard he gambled away a total of £2.5million
- The father-of-one claimed he was the victim of cyber crime to hide fraud