A Fylde businessman who made nearly £47,000 of bogus VAT claims has been jailed for 10 months and faces having his assets seized.
Father-of-four Lee Doward, 35, formerly of an address on St David’s Close, St Annes, trembled and began to cry in the dock at Preston’s Sessions House Court.
Doward, now a self-employed courier from Randall Drive, Bootle, Liverpool, admitted two counts of VAT fraud.
Mark Stephenson, prosecuting, told the court how Doward had set up a business, LD Internet Solutions Limited, in St Annes, purporting to sell internet advertising to companies across Europe and with an annual turnover of £100,000.
During a period between April 2008 to March 2009 he submitted several claims for VAT to be paid back, amounting to £3,240.31.
But Companies House wound up the firm after he failed to submit his annual returns.
In 2010 he set up a similar business, this time called Internet Search Solutions Ltd, purporting to have a £500,000 annual turnover. This time he made 15 claims for VAT refunds over a period between February 2011 and June 2015. All of the fraudulent VAT payments were deposited in his personal account.
The court heard none of the transactions out of his personal account related to the business and there were many payments for gambling and holidays. Defending, Rory McCormack, said: “He was under emotional and financial pressure. But he accepts he did not need to do it.” A Proceeds of Crime hearing will now take place.
Judge Graham Knowles told him: “Everybody in the country pay VAT when they pay for their shopping or services. Part of the price that everybody pays for goods, and before VAT, is so that businesses can pay their corporation tax, national insurance contributions and so on. Millions of people pay income tax and national insurance and the government has a large annual income.
“You saw that large amount of money not as a reserve for the common good but as something you could use an an easy target. You used the VAT administration as a personal cash machine.”