FRAUD investigators have welcomed the news that a former ambulance chief currently serving three years in prison for fraud will have to pay back more than £140,000 to the National Health Service (NHS).

Trevor Molton, 51, of Middleton, near Pickering, is a former chief executive of West Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Trust (WYMAT) - now part of the Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS).

He was convicted in May last year, along with ex-finance chief John Miners, of attempting to defraud the ambulance trust of £250,000.

At Manchester Crown Court Judge Anthony Ensor ordered both men to pay £121,358.60 back to the YAS.

If they fail or refuse, they face an extra three years in jail each.

In addition to the £121,358, Molton must pay £20,500 to the NHS Counter Fraud Service. Miners must pay the service £30,000.

A spokesman for the fraud service said: "We are pleased that the money stolen can now be reinvested back into ambulance services.

"Molton and Miners have now lost their jobs, their liberty and ordered to repay the money they stole. Trevor Molton and John Miners were in senior positions in the NHS, positions requiring high levels of trust and responsibility. They flagrantly abused those positions to defraud the NHS.

"Their actions can only be described as disgraceful and they have received the punishment they deserve."

Molton and Miners were convicted last May after a five-week trial in which the court was told they used taxpayers' money to set up a secret accommodation company to house 1,000 Filipino nurses recruited from abroad, then pocketed the £500 a month rents themselves. But their company, Accommodation For Yorkshire (A4Y) soon floundered and in 2001, they took the money and ran when the firm went bust.

Molton, who was paid £98,000-a-year by WYMAT, made £42,500 out of the scam.

Chartered accountant Miners, from Nailsea, near Bristol, gained by £35,700.

The NHS lost at least £250,000, and a further £186,000 of taxpayers' money was spent on the investigation and trial.

Jayne Barnes, chief executive of the YAS, said: "We welcome the verdict - especially as the money will be going directly back into YAS."