The Nottingham ringleader of a trio of fraudsters, who used a network of companies and false identities to steal nearly £305,000 through VAT, income tax and tax credit frauds to pay for Porsche sports cars and rent a four-bedroom house, has been jailed for four years, reports Accountancy Daily.
Chris May, 35, of Nottingham, made false VAT repayment claims, lied about his income and made fraudulent claims for tax credits over a four-year period from 2010. Together with his partner Frances May, 32, of Nottingham, and Lea Reeve, 42, of Derbyshire, May used a network of data trading companies to evade paying VAT, an HMRC investigation revealed.
The fraudsters used false invoices to steal £130,859 in VAT. They also charged VAT to customers but failed to declare it to HMRC, stealing the money for themselves.
Investigators believe May was the driving force behind the scams, appointing friends and family as company directors including Frances May and friend Lea Reeve in a bid to protect himself. He also worked under aliases including Chris Mills and Chris Marshall to cover his tracks.
The gang also lied about their income to fund their lifestyles, collectively evading £122,392 in income tax payments. Chris and Frances May spent the stolen cash on rent for their four-bedroom house, the upkeep of a horse livery and two Porsche sports cars.
The couple also pocketed £37,511 in tax credits they were not entitled to between 2010 and 2014. Reeve assisted the Mays by making several calls to HMRC to amend and chase the claims.
In March 2015 all three were charged, but Chris May made two attempts to stop a trial from going ahead through health issues. The judge ruled he was fit to plea and he denied the charges.
Reeve admitted her role in the fraud, while the Mays were convicted after a trial at Nottingham Crown Court. Chris May was sentenced to four years in prison and disqualified from being a director for 10 years. Reeve was handed a 14-month prison sentence suspended for a year, a four-month curfew and ordered to carry out 150 hours unpaid work. She was also disqualified from being a director for five years.
Frances May was given a nine-month prison sentence suspended for a year, together with a four-month curfew.
Proceedings to recover the stolen money have begun.
Nick Stone, assistant director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, said: ‘This was the deliberate theft from the taxpayer – money which should be funding our vital public services instead of funding the lifestyles of fraudsters. The group, led by Chris May, stole the equivalent to the salaries of 13 trainee firefighters in the East Midlands.’