Architect Guy Pound, 71, Anthony Green, 76, a senior partner in QS firm AE Green until his retirement in 1992, and Peter Beard, 56, senior partner in the firm since 1992, will be sentenced at Southampton Crown Court on 19 April.
A Serious Fraud Office investigation had centred on six contracts totalling £15m, which the three convicted men entered into between 1985 and 1995 with Talbot Village Trust. The charity was set up in the late 19th century by Georgina Talbot, a local philanthropist, to ease local poverty, help the disabled and further young people's education.
The contracts included the construction of accommodation for elderly and needy people, hostels for Bournemouth University students, accommodation for Cheshire Homes, and related home projects – all on land belonging to the trust.
Pound, Green and Beard had been responsible for certifying work carried out by Bournemouth-based building contractors W Hayward & Sons. When W Hayward submitted claims for payment, these were certified despite the fact that not all the work had been done.
Work charged for that the trust did not have to pay was £980,000
Serious Fraud Office
An SFO statement said that an example of the fraud was on the roads projects, where claims were made for concrete overlaid with tarmac. The statement said that core samples of road drilled during the investigation revealed that concrete had been left out of construction.
The statement said: "In all, work charged for which the trust did not have to pay or had not agreed to pay was in the order of £980,000."
The SFO said that even more money was obtained through excessive fees, totalling about £3m. The SFO said that an unusual feature of the charging arrangement with the trust was that the architects' and building surveyors' costs were not itemised in the bill of quantities but included as a percentage of the building costs in the contracts.
The SFO added: "This disguised the true extent of the fees paid to the quantity surveyor and the architect."
The SFO said that the conspiracy also involved a man called Harry Groome who died in 2000; he worked for the trust's agent Savills and acted for the trust in its dealings on the projects. The SFO said: "He allowed claims and failed to monitor the building works. He received an illicit payment of £15,000 and was treated to foreign holidays."
The suspected fraud was initially reported to the Dorset police who then informed the SFO. In May 1999 a joint investigation began.