A Derby bookkeeper who pretended to be a fully qualified accountant to steal £143,957 through tax fraud, sending more than £100,000 of it to a woman he’d never met in Canada, has been jailed.
David Price, 68, of Lingfield Rise in Mickleover, Derby, lied about his financial qualifications to masquerade as a tax adviser before fraudulently claiming tax repayments and keeping money his clients provided to settle their tax bills, an HMRC investigation revealed.
Despite being married for over 40 years, Mr Price sent £102,160 of the money he stole to a woman in Canada he’d struck up an online relationship with, but never met.
The money was sent illegally by breaching anti-money laundering regulations.
HMRC uncovered the frauds after one of Mr Price’s clients was subject to a tax enquiry. Mr Price went to considerable lengths to try and hide his crimes, including making false allegations against HMRC staff and faking letters to his clients telling them HMRC’s enquiry was being investigated by The Adjudicator’s Office, which examines complaints about HMRC.
Richard Young, assistant director, fraud investigation service, HMRC, said: “The sheer volume of lies [Mr] Price told is astonishing. He’s one of the most deceitful men I’ve ever come across. He was in a position of trust, but lied to steal money and then lied to try to block our investigation. Sending the money to a woman he’d never met just makes this case even more bizarre.
“Criminals like [Mr] Price think they can get away with stealing from the public purse and the honest majority of taxpayers who do the right thing.“
On sentencing, HHJ Robert Egbuna told Mr Price he was ‘selfish and dishonest through and through.’
“You forged and cheated to get what you wanted and preyed on your victims,” the judge said. “This was a sophisticated offence and you went on the attack when arrested, reporting clients on trumped up charges.”
Mr Price used fake credentials to con his clients into believing he was professionally qualified and stole £50,389 from 13 of his many clients over a five-year period from 2008. He did so by keeping money they gave him to settle their tax bills, adapting their tax returns to HMRC to show they owed nothing.
He also provided HMRC and his clients with different versions of the same accounts. Clients’ tax returns showed they had nothing to pay while the HMRC version claimed a tax repayment, which he pocketed.
Mr Price sent £40,280 to his Canadian companion between 2009 and 2010 before using prepaid cash cards to transfer a further £61,880. At the same time, he declared just £710 profit from his bookkeeping business and his own finances were strained – his mortgage arrears were £13,000.
His frauds were uncovered after he desperately tried to block an audit of one of his clients. He altered the dates on documents sent from HMRC to claim the audit was out of time and therefore could not proceed.
Mr Price also forged a letter from The Adjudicator’s Office to his client, telling them not to respond to HMRC. However the investigation continued and mr Price was arrested. He then made serious allegations about his treatment, which were investigated and found to be false.
Mr Price also made two attempts to stop the trial from going ahead. At first, he claimed he was not fit to stand trial as he suffered from agoraphobia, claustrophobia, heart failure and panic attacks but a judge ruled it could go ahead.
His second attempt, an application to have the case dismissed because he could not receive a fair trial due to lost evidence, which was also rejected.
Mr Price was convicted after a trial and he was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment at Derby Crown Court last Thursday (01 February 2018).
Confiscation proceedings to recover the stolen money have begun.
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