A company director from West Norfolk, who defrauded the state out of more than £1.6 million in tax while pretending to be a spy to hide his life of crime, has been jailed.
Raymond Thomas, 71, of Lynn Road, Tilney All Saints, told family and friends he was a spy often working abroad, but was travelling to various holiday homes funded entirely from a VAT fraud.
He told HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators he worked for US Homeland Security and produced key components for a drone and even complained to the Prime Minister when money was withheld.
Thomas was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison at Manchester Crown Court yesterday, having earlier pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, money laundering and producing false documents.
His wife, Susan Weston, 69, of Salford, was sentenced to 12 months in jail, suspended for 12 months, for money laundering.
Cheryl Burr, assistant director of fraud investigation services for HMRC, said: “This was an astonishing case. Thomas lived a life of utter fabrication and lied to pretty much everyone he knew.
“In reality, Thomas was a criminal who carried out a sustained attack on the public purse stealing money that should have been funding our public services. But he is now paying the price for his crime.”
Thomas claimed to run a business called Cambridge Computer Graphics (CCG) that he said manufactured and serviced aviation radar systems. He also claimed to have worked for the US Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
But HMRC’s investigation found the business was a sham and Thomas had created a string of false invoices using hijacked company details to support fraudulent VAT refund claims between 2008 and 2013.
The crime was uncovered after a HMRC officer visited CCG and found discrepancies in his business records following a claim for £98,000 in 2014. During the visit, Thomas said his work for the US meant he had to destroy associated paperwork.
However checks with the US departments and other alleged suppliers, including leading defence and airline companies, revealed no business took place and invoices provided to HMRC were forged.
While the investigation was ongoing, Thomas had his accountant, who was unaware of the fraud, send a letter of complaint to The Prime Minister, The Deputy Prime Minister and Chief Executive of HMRC warning the company would close if VAT claims were not paid.
In another letter of complaint, Thomas said his company had “recently developed a critical component of an information gathering drone under contract to the dept of defense.”
The conman told friends and family he was a spy and claimed to be working overseas when he was actually holidaying with Weston at properties they owned in Berlin, Kefalonia and Perpignan.
She helped launder the stolen money in and out of the business using her personal bank accounts.
The pair were arrested in Salford after HMRC officers found Thomas had sent £81,700 to his wife’s account in August 2014.
Proceedings are now underway to recover the stolen money.
Officials say anyone who believes a VAT fraud may be being committed should phone the HMRC fraud hotline on 0800 788887.