The Managing Partner of a firm that was compulsorily wound-up is defending himself against accusations of file fabrication.
The SRA shut down mental health firm Blavo & Co in October 2015. The regulator acted after the Legal Aid Agency, from which Blavo received the bulk of its work, had terminated all its contracts following "significant concerns" of fraud.
The LAA launched an investigation in 2015, and in 144 cases randomly selected by the agency for closer examination, the relevant NHS trusts had no record of Blavo & Co clients being patients in 98 of them. In one instance the hospital in question did not even have a mental health unit, and in another it had shut down eight years ago. And then burnt down.
The Lord Chancellor has now brought an action in the High Court against John Blavo, who was the sole director of the firm. According to the LAA's calculations, Blavo & Co submitted claims on over 23,000 cases for fabricated work, totalling £22 million*.
In the Royal Courts of Justice this week, counsel for the Lord Chancellor, Rachel Sleeman, said that files for two mental patients were "pretty much identical". Sleeman questioned a former Blavo & Co partner, Lee-Ann Frampton-Anderson, as to whether one of the files "might not be genuine". Frampton-Anderson agreed that the information was very similar, but said that "filing errors do happen". Under cross-examination, Frampton-Anderson also said that some files might not have had the correct name for patients, as some individuals wanted to "forget their identity" and used a different name.
An LAA investigator also told the court that Blavo & Co claimed that it was burgled in August 2015, a few weeks after the LAA had informed the firm that it would be investigated. Robert Bourne, counsel for John Blavo, asked the investigator if there was any reason to suggest that the burglary "did not take place". He also asked if the investigator had visited the premises after the burglary; the investigator replied that he had not.
Bourne told the court that John Blavo would not be called to give evidence.