Gang jailed for tax fraud by HMRC

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A 20-strong gang from the West Midlands, Staffordshire, London and Manchester has been jailed for almost 90 years for stealing more than £8m in a sophisticated construction tax fraud.

The 17 men and three women were arrested by HM Revenue and Customs officers during an investigation that revealed tax offences and money laundering linked to the construction industry over a two-year period.

Investigators uncovered a large and complex web of illegal activity involving more than 100 businesses.

Subcontractors were employed ‘off-record’ and the gang members pocketed Income Tax and National Insurance contributions due to be paid to HMRC.

Fake invoices, supposedly for providing labour, had also been created to claim VAT refunds to which the gang were not entitled.

HMRC investigators carried out searches at more than 40 residential and business premises across the UK in September 2009.

They seized paperwork, computers, class A drugs and almost £170,000 in cash from 11 business properties in the West Midlands and Manchester. Smaller quantities of US dollars and Euros were also discovered.

All defendants have now been sentenced following three separate trials at Birmingham Crown Court, and reporting restrictions have been removed.

Colin Booker, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: “Today’s final sentencing brings to an end a six-year investigation, centred on a highly organised and complex fraud, undertaken by a group of individuals who cared for nothing but their own financial gain.

“HMRC is investing more time and resources than ever into identifying fraud. Our work does not stop at sentencing, but at depriving those involved of the proceeds of their crimes.

“Confiscation action will follow, as we attempt to recoup some of the £8 million the gang so shamelessly stole from the taxpayer.”

The following defendants were sentenced today following a 13-week trial starting in April 2014 at Birmingham Crown Court:

1.  Anthony O’Neill, DOB 24.10.73, of Slimbridge Close, Bolton, Greater Manchester, had denied five charges of VAT fraud and conspiracy to launder money and was jailed for eight years. He is also disqualified from acting as a director for 10 years.

2.  Michael Maguire, DOB 23.02.71, of Bentley Meadows, Bury, Greater Manchester, denied five charges of VAT fraud and conspiracy to launder money and was jailed for five years and nine months. He is also disqualified from acting as a director for seven years.

3.  James Keith Radford, DOB 13.10.60, of Flaxcroft Road, Manchester, had denied five charges of VAT fraud and conspiracy to launder money and was jailed for six years. He is also disqualified from acting as a director for seven years.

4.  Stanley Turner, DOB 23.12.51, of Newton Hall Caravan Park, Blackpool, Lancashire, had denied a fraud offence and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment suspended for two years. He is also disqualified from acting as a director for five years.

The following defendant pleaded guilty at the start of the trial and was sentenced alongside O’Neill, Maguire and others today:

5.  Christopher Standring, DOB 11.08.66, of Burnley Road, Bury, Greater Manchester, had admitted five charges of VAT fraud and conspiracy to launder money and was jailed for five years and six months. He is also disqualified from acting as a director for seven years.

The following defendants were sentenced in September 2013 after a 17-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court:

6.  Bernard Harper, DOB 01.04.56, of Causey Farm Road, Halesowen, West Midlands, was a construction boss and was described by His Honour Judge Carr at sentencing as “the centre of the fraud and an organiser of it”. He was jailed for eight years. Harper was also disqualified from acting as a company director for 10 years.

7.  Steven Jeremy Bache, DOB 31.01.62, of Leys Close, Stourbridge, West Midlands, was jailed for three years and six months. Bache is an accountant who used his expertise to in a bid to evade HMRC controls. He is also prohibited from acting as a company director for seven years. He had
denied the charges against him.

8.  Kelly Nicholls, DOB 30.05.78, of Mill Street, Brierley Hill, West Midlands, was jailed for five years. She produced invoices and helped with administration tasks connected to the fraud.

The following defendants were tried in November 2013 at Birmingham Crown Court and
sentenced on 18 December 2013:

9.  Susan Coussens, DOB 29.01.59, of Chestnut Close, Norton, Stourbridge, West Midlands, had denied money laundering and fraud charges but was jailed for four years. Like Kelly Nicholls, Coussens produced invoices and helped with administration tasks in the fraud.

10.  Helga Lowndes, DOB 29.12.65, of Weeping Cross, Stafford, denied VAT fraud and conspiracy to contravene the Finance Act 2000. She was jailed for two years.

11.  Simon Clifford Davies, DOB 12.05.68, of Loxley Close, Churchill, Redditch, Worcestershire, was found guilty of VAT fraud and conspiracy to launder money. He was jailed for four years.

The following defendants entered guilty pleas and were sentenced in September 2013:

12.  Anthony Smith, DOB 10.06.78, of Mill Street, Brierley Hill, West Midlands, admitted cheating the revenue and was jailed for five years and one month. A former bank manager, Smith is also the partner of Kelly Nicholls and was described by the judge at sentencing as Harper’s “lieutenant and the office manager” when he was not present.

13.  Stuart Henderson Barrett, DOB 20.07.57, of Hillbank, Tividale, West Midlands, admitted conspiracy to cheat the revenue and money laundering and was jailed for four years and three months. Stuart Barrett ran a security company alongside his son Steven Barrett, and collected some of the fraud’s proceeds from various banks.

14.  Steven Lee Barrett, DOB 09.11.79, of Woodside Way, Walsall, West Midlands admitted conspiracy to cheat the Revenue and money laundering, and was also imprisoned for four years and three months. Steven and Stuart Barrett were also disqualified from acting as directors for seven years. Sentencing, the judge said that both Barretts were “heavily involved” in the fraud.

15.  Richard Ruddick, DOB 28.05.69, of no fixed abode, had admitted VAT fraud and offences contrary to the Finance Act 2000. He was jailed for one year and eight months. Ruddick acted as an intermediary between the off-record workforce and the company that contracted them. He was described by the judge at sentencing as “at the coal face” during the fraud.

The following three defendants entered guilty pleas and were sentenced on 18 December
2013:

16.  Craig Ross Hill, DOB 06.06.64, of Raby Close, Tividale, West Midlands, admitted conspiring to cheat the revenue and was jailed for four years and three months. He is also disqualified from acting as a director for seven years. Hill was a director for two of the sham companies created as part of the scam.

17.  John Caulfield, DOB 03.05.72, of Barton Lodge Road, Hall Green, Birmingham, had admitted cheating the revenue and was jailed for four years and three months.

18.  Ian Siviter, DOB 08.10.75, of Regent Road, Tividale, West Midlands, admitted cheating the revenue and was jailed for four years and three months. He was also disqualified from acting as a director for seven years. Siviter was a director for two of the sham companies created as part of the scam.

19.  Timothy O’Loughlin, DOB 29.05.59, of Hassell Drive, Bristol, admitted conspiracy to launder money, and was jailed for three years and nine months on 2 May 2014.

20.  Neil Hughes, DOB 26.09.65, of Linthurst, Newtown Blackwell, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, admitted cheating the revenue and was jailed for four years and three months on 17 January 2014.

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