Former Labor MP found guilty of fraudulent expense claims to fund cocaine habit

A former Labor MP has been found guilty of filing a series of fraudulent expense claims after hearing in parliament that he was seriously addicted to cocaine and owed thousands of pounds to drug dealers. rice field.

Jared O’Mara, 41, defeated Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg for Sheffield Hallam constituency in the June 2017 general election.

Four months later, he lost his party whip after being suspended by the Labor Party after it was revealed he had posted a series of sexist and homophobic remarks on social media a decade earlier.

O’Mara, who sat as an independent for two years, eventually resigned from the Labor Party, resigning in the December 2019 general election and being replaced by Labor’s Olivia Blake.

On Wednesday, a jury at Leeds Criminal Court found him guilty of six counts of fraud based on false statements.

His chief of staff, Gareth Arnold, 30, was found guilty of three of the six crimes, and O’Mara’s friend John Woodriffe was acquitted of the only charges he faced. became.

Kentucky Judge Tom Baylis said O’Mara had forged bills totaling £24,000 to finance “an extravagant lifestyle of drinking, smoking and, above all, cocaine”.

O’Mara and Arnold will be sentenced on Thursday.

Four of the charges O’Mara was convicted of were fraudulent claims made to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Service (IPSA) from a “fictitious” organization called Confident About Autism South Yorkshire between June and August 2019. It was about

O’Mara was acquitted of submitting a false employment contract to Woodriff as a precinct support officer.

At trial, we heard that the IPSA, which was created in the wake of the 2009 congressional dues scandal, paid none of the claims.

“Dishonest” or “Incompetence”?

O’Mara’s attorneys argued that O’Mara was “incompetent” rather than “disloyal”.

KC’s Mark Kelly said in his closing remarks that O’Mara and Arnold “clearly don’t understand how formal the process is, how rigorous the process is.”

Kelly said of the client, “Was he acting dishonestly, or was he simply failing to follow proper procedures due to administrative ignorance or incompetence?”

Arnold, who was the only defendant to present evidence, told jurors that he “absolutely” did media and PR work on both bills.

Arnold said O’Mara fired most of his staff “overnight” in April 2019, becoming an “absentee” and relying heavily on him.

Under cross-examination by prosecutor James Vaughan-Arton, Arnold said he saw a bag of cocaine in O’Mara’s bathroom during a party.

“It was an open secret that he took cocaine in Sheffield. Just by looking at his Twitter, he was joking about it,” Arnold said.

Asked by Bourne-Arton why Omara withdrew £7,000 in cash in one month, Arnold said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was cocaine, alcohol and tobacco.”

MP allegedly took up to 5 grams of cocaine a day

According to Arnold, O’Mara drank “one bottle of vodka” and consumed “up to five grams” of cocaine a day during the spring and summer of 2019.

Bourne-Arton read a message Arnold sent to a friend in April 2019.

“It’s a very dangerous game. He wants to make sure no bad boys come for him. He makes 80k a year,” the friend replied.

In June 2019, Arnold sent a WhatsApp message saying he appeared drunk or high before an interview on BBC’s Look North programme.

Arnold added, “You’re the one doing cocaine instead of going to Congress.”

Later that month, Arnold turned himself in to police saying he “didn’t want to be a part of any further fraud.”

Detective Sergeant Andrew Shields admitted to speaking with Arnold about O’Mara’s mental state, cocaine use, and IPSA bills.

O’Mara, who has cerebral palsy and autism, was picked for Labor’s nominee when Jeremy Corbyn was party leader, but whether he was vetted or whether he was just a ‘paper candidate’. There was some question as to what was thought to be a… unwinnable seat.

Arnold said at trial that O’Mara never expected to defeat Clegg in the 2017 election, and that becoming an MP was a “huge shock” for him.

“In Mr. O’Mara’s case, they thought there was absolutely no way this guy could win…and he did,” Arnold said.

in an interview with Guardian Shortly after being elected, O’Mara said: I’m a slightly eccentric, slightly eccentric disabled person who keeps stumbling upon great achievements. “

He added: But the time has come for ordinary people to come here. I am his 40-year-old right wing and I want Congress to stop favoring young people. “

PA Media contributed to this report.