The ringleaders of an eight-strong gang of labourers from the West Midlands have been jailed for attempting 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 totalling £296,193 between 2011 and 2015, an HMRC investigation revealed.
Investigators found ringleaders Mark Thorpe, 39, of Inland Road, Erdington, Birmingham, and Aaron Hayers, 35, of Swan Street, Netherton in Dudley, recruited 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 they had overpaid to claim larger repayments.
Officers rumbled the men after similarities were noticed across the tax returns, such as all using the same employment details.
Money for three recipients was paid into a bank account of an associate of Mr 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.
Mr Thorpe was sentenced to a 32-month custodial sentence at Birmingham Crown Court on 2 March 2018, after he admitted the frauds.
Mr 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.
Messrs Gilligan and Richardson were convicted after a trial, the rest admitted guilt.
Confiscation proceedings to recover their criminal profits are ongoing.
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