Jared O’Mara undermined trust in all MPs with his cocaine fraud, a court was told as he was jailed for four years.
The former MP “abused his position” by trying to claim around £52,000 of taxpayers’ money for work that was never done and jobs that did not exist, a judge said.
The judge, sentencing O’Mara at Leeds Crown Court on Thursday, added that it was “cynical, deliberate and dishonest” expenses fraud used to fund a “cocaine and alcohol-driven lifestyle”.
Prosecutor James Bourne-Arton said the fraud was not a victimless crime and that it had an impact on other MPs “because it undermines public trust and confidence in them”.
O’Mara, 41, who represented the constituency of Sheffield Hallam from 2017 to 2019, went on trial for submitting fake invoices to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) between June and Aug 2019.
The court heard that O’Mara made four claims for a total of £19,400 from a “fictitious” organisation called Confident About Autism South Yorkshire.
A jury found that he also submitted a false contract of employment for his friend John Woodliff, pretending he worked as a constituency support officer.
The former nightclub manager was cleared of two fraud charges over invoices from another friend, Gareth Arnold, for media work that prosecutors claimed was never carried out.
But he was convicted of an offence of fraud after emailing Ipsa in Feb 2020, falsely claiming the police investigation into him had been completed and he was entitled to be paid the two invoices relating to Arnold, which totalled £4,650.
Prosecutors said the total value of the fraud was about £52,000, including Mr Woodliff’s proposed salary of £28,000.
Arnold, who became O’Mara’s chief of staff in June 2019, was sentenced to 15 months, suspended for two years, after a jury found him guilty of three fraud charges but cleared him of a further three.
Mark Kelly KC, defending O’Mara, said the former MP wanted to apologise to his constituents “for his failure to resign in Oct 2017” when controversial comments he made online before becoming an MP were revealed.
“When he felt that he was being hounded by the media, whether that is the case or not, he felt under pressure from the media for certain circumstances that had come to light,” said Mr Kelly.
He told the court that O’Mara was “an inadequate individual to cope with the stresses and strains of public life”, and “resorted to taking drugs, alcohol and distancing himself in many respects from those that were around him”.
But Judge Tom Bayliss KC said the apology was “entirely disingenuous”.
“You must have realised early on that you were wholly unsuited to the role, but you carried on regardless, you brazened it out, drawing a salary but doing little or no parliamentary work,” said the judge.
“You are not here because of that and I do not aggravate your position because of it. It is irrelevant to these proceedings.
“That is a matter between you and those who elected you. You are here because you abused your position to commit fraud. And you have shown not the slightest degree of remorse in respect of that.”
The judge said that at the time of the fraud, O’Mara had financial difficulties “caused by a hedonistic lifestyle fuelled by the consumption of large amounts of vodka and, of course, cocaine”.
He told the defendant: “You do indeed have autism spectrum disorder, and cerebral palsy. This has not stopped you from working in the past, nor seeking election as a member of parliament.
“Nor should it. Everyone in a democracy should be able to participate, including, whatever their disability, putting themselves forward for election as a Member of Parliament.”
O’Mara won Sheffield Hallam for Labour from Sir Nick Clegg, the former Liberal Democrat leader, in 2017, but later left the party after a series of controversies.
He stayed in office as an independent MP but did not contest the 2019 general election.
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