A VAT fraud gang stole £12 million from taxpayers by importing thousands of cars and selling them on without paying the tax, a court heard.
Wayne Murden, 47, of Abelwell Street, Walsall and Russell Bakewell, 47, of Walnall Road, Landywood, Great Wyrley, along with Steven Hague, 49, Peter Green, 46 both from Bradford, all pleaded guilty to creating and operating an illegal network of companies.
Murden was given a 12 month custodial sentence suspended for two years, Bakewell was jailed for 30 months, and Hague and Green were both sentenced to 21 months in prison.
All were banned from being a company director for four years
Two Walsall members of the gang, Reginald Turner, 62 from Broadway Well, along with his daughter 32-year-old mother-of-two Tammy Copson, of Rowley Street, also pleaded guilty to the offences and will be sentenced at a later hearing.
Those six, along with 40-year old Jayne Mitchell from Selby in North Yorkshire, who was jailed for ten years, were caught after HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) began investigations into the accounts of a number of the companies they controlled.
HMRC investigators discovered the gang had imported more than 7,000 new vehicles, VAT free, passed through a chain of fake companies, and eventually sold on to unsuspecting car supermarkets and dealerships across the UK.
Many of the fake companies disappearing without paying the VAT due on the sales.
The contrived chain of companies turned over £80 million in two years. One company received more than £65 million in bank credits whilst another raised invoices for over £4 million in just four months. At the height of the fraud one of the companies imported and sold more than 1,200 cars in just one month.
Peter Hollier, regional director of criminal investigation for HMRC said: “Although registered as senior executives within the network of fake companies, these people were not entrepreneurs or ruthless business people. They were recruited into a criminal operation that would make them a substantial profit – an opportunity they willingly accepted – but they are now facing the harsh reality of becoming involved in this crime.
“Each one of them knew exactly what they were getting into and they all played an active role in helping Jayne Mitchell becoming a very rich woman at the expense of the taxpayer. Although these individuals were able to create ‘comfortable’ lifestyles as a result of this fraud, some of them claiming benefits, none of them enjoyed the luxuries afforded to Mitchell.”