Construction workers who tried to steal £300,000 in tax claims jailed
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The ringleaders of an eight-strong group of labourers from the West Midlands have been jailed for trying to steal £300,000 through fake tax claims.
The gang, who met through work, submitted fake Self Assessment returns claiming they had paid too much tax and were due repayments.
The claims, lodged between 2011 and 2015, totalled £296,193, an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) found.
Ringleaders Mark Thorpe, 39, of Inland Road, Erdington, Birmingham, and Aaron Hayers, 35, of Swan Street, Netherton in Dudley recruited their workmates to carry out the fraud and took a percentage of their claims.
Each gang member registered separately to do their Self Assessment returns online and made multiple amendments, each time increasing the amount that they had overpaid to claim larger repayments.
But HMRC officers uncovered the scam after they noticed similarities across the tax returns, such as using all the same employment details.
Money for three recipients was paid into a bank account of an associate of Thorpe’s, who received a payment of more than £20,000 into a bank account.
A further payment of £32,705 was requested but withheld by HMRC.
A total of £172,441 was paid out to the individuals and further payments of £118,622 were withheld by HMRC.
Thorpe was sentenced to a 32-month custodial sentence at Birmingham Crown Court on 2 March, after he admitted the frauds.
Hayers was handed a 36-month custodial sentence after admitting guilt at the same court last September.
Six of the remaining gang members were also convicted of submitting fraudulent returns:
- Paul Hayers (brother of Aaron), 35, sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months.
- Wayne Garratt, 46, sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months.
- Colin Wakeman, sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months.
- James Cowley, 28, sentenced to 16 months in prison, suspended for two years.
- John Gilligan, 30, sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years.
- Bernard Richardson, 44, sentenced to ten months in prison, suspended for two years.
Gilligan and Richardson were convicted after a trial, the rest admitted guilt.
Paul Fisher, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Services, HMRC, said: ““Thorpe and Hayers led this gang in a relentless and sustained attack on the tax system. HMRC stopped their attempt to steal thousands more from the public purse, but they are now facing over five years in jail.”