Teacher faked 'fit to fly' COVID certificate to board flight to Egypt

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Phillip Cunningham, from Kings Norton, at Birmingham Magistrates Court
Phillip Cunningham, from Kings Norton, at Birmingham Magistrates Court.

A teacher faked a “fit to fly” COVID test certificate in an attempt to board a flight to Egypt.

On Friday 4 June, Phillip Cunningham, from Kings Norton, admitted in court to presenting the fraudulent document.

The 33-year-old altered a legitimate test result from earlier in the year to make it look more up-to-date, the court heard.

He was attempting to check in for the flight on 4 May at Terminal 2 in Heathrow Airport when he showed staff the certificate in a PDF document on his phone.

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Prosecutor Ros Butler told Birmingham Magistrates Court that Cunningham claimed his bosses organised the test before sending him a copy of the result.

But an Egyptair worker spotted a missing digit on his COVID test and police were called to the check-in area.

Officers then contacted the testing company, which confirmed he had a negative test in February, but found he could not possibly have revisited the same centre the day before his flight because the firm was no longer subcontracted to his employer.

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Butler said: "He provided an account to officers at the scene. They made further enquiries and were not happy with the situation. He was arrested.

"He was interviewed at the police station and did go on to make a full admission.

"He said he had done this, he didn't want to lie and that he had sent officers on a wild goose chase. He had paid for a COVID-19 test before.

“He is a music teacher and was worried this could affect 'most of my life'. The situation escalated quicker than he expected."

The prosecutor said there were “potentially very serious consequences” to the scam.

Cunningham pleaded guilty to a forgery and counterfeit offence of making a false instrument at Birmingham Magistrates Court.

Judge Briony Clarke criticised the 33-year-old for only confessing his con after “sending officers around the houses a bit”.

The judge said it was a “very serious offence” but adjourned Cunningham's case until later this month for the probation service to assess him and write up a pre-sentence report.

Cunningham was granted bail and said he was due to fly out of the country for work but would be back for the sentencing hearing.

He confirmed he had since obtained an up-to-date negative test certificate.

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