The founder of an academy and two staff members have been jailed for defrauding the government out of £69,000.
Sajid Raza, 43, who set up Kings Science Academy in Bradford, and his sister Shabana Hussain, 40, made payments from Department for Education grants into their own bank accounts.
A third defendant, Daud Khan, 44, facilitated the fraud. The three were convicted following a trial in August.
Raza was jailed for five years, Hussain for six months and Khan 14 months.
Passing sentence at Leeds Crown Court, Judge Christopher Batty said: “The three of you were convicted by the jury of a number of counts relating to your dishonest dealings with public money during the periods when you were setting up the Kings Science Academy and, in your case Sajid Raza and Daud Khan, also in the first 15 months of its operation.”
He said free schools were set up to educate children, not to be a vehicle for making money.
During the trial, the court heard Raza and Hussain, a teacher at the school, diverted money intended to be used to establish the school into their own accounts.
The money was used by Raza to offset his personal financial difficulties. His rental properties were by August 2013 making a loss of £10,000 a year.
Khan, who was the school’s financial director, did not receive any cash but the court was told the money could not have been diverted without his agreement.
Fraudulent invoices for fees and services were also produced.
Raza was found guilty of four counts of fraud, three counts of false accounting and two counts of obtaining money by deception.
Hussain was convicted of one count of fraud and one count of obtaining property by deception.
Khan was found guilty of two counts of fraud and three counts of false accounting.
The academy was one of the first free schools to open, in September 2011, and was praised by then Prime Minister David Cameron when he visited in 2012.
It has since become part of the Dixons academy group.