Ringleader of tax fraud trio jailed

The Nottingham ringleader of a trio of fraudsters, who lied in order to steal nearly £305,000 through various tax frauds, has been jailed.

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.

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Chris May and accomplices Frances May, 32, of Nottingham, and Lea Reeve, 42, of Derbyshire, used a network of companies which traded in the buying and selling of data to steal VAT, a HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation revealed.

The fraudsters stole £130,859 in VAT using false invoices to reclaim repayments they weren’t entitled to. They also charged VAT to customers but failed to declare it to HMRC, stealing the money for themselves.

Nick Stone, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, 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.

“HMRC want to level the playing field for all businesses and we will continue to pursue the small minority who commit tax fraud. We urge anyone with information about tax fraud to report it to HMRC online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

Investigators believe Chris May was the driving force behind the scams and appointed friends and family as company directors including partner 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 claimed to be earning less than they were, while hiding their full income from the four businesses. The duo 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 weren’t entitled 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.

Yesterday (28 May 2019), 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 handed a nine-month prison sentence suspended for a year, and given a four-month curfew, at the same court on 22 May 2019.

Proceedings to recover the stolen money have begun.

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